Have you read this? You should! David is so brave to voice what the IFB churches teach men about women. He is 100% right in what men are taught and what this teaching does to families. Thank you David for sharing your story and I will join you in praying that as many people as possible get out of the IFB and run fast and far away!
It’s so easy to look back and see clearly how and why things came about in my life. I write honestly about my journey in motherhood because I know there are other moms and dads out there like me and you all need to know that you are not alone. And maybe there are some younger men and women reading and perhaps something I say will spark something in your mind and be a warning of sorts.
Fundamentalism shaped my journey of motherhood. Not so much for what it did tell me but for what it didn’t. There is a huge emphasis on all thing marriage, motherhood, homemaking and feminine. The result is that anything not considered to fall into one of those categories was then an implication that that was not worth pursuing. It never told me or encouraged me toward any other options.
I wanted to be a writer, from a very early age. I wanted to travel. I never wanted to get married, ever. Now I am in my 30s, and I do still believe that that life would have suited me just fine. I enjoyed dating, but I prefer not to be too tied down. I am a solitary person of sorts, I hate being stuck in one place or one town. This is the struggle I now have as a mom of four and as wife. I am home all day with kids, something I never thought I would be a good fit doing. I was conflicted in a major way. I knew in my heart what I wanted and who I was but the world created around me, Fundamentalism, confused me and pressured me. I still take full responsibility for my choices. Nobody physically forced me down the aisle at 20 years old. Nobody forced me to get pregnant ….and then again….and again….and one more time.
In a nutshell, my childhood was one of abuse and neglect. When I met my husband, I was looking for something. I should have looked for that fulfillment and satisfaction in God and in myself, not in another person. But I didn’t know any better. I leaned on this person to fill in all the gaps that were there due to my upbringing. I placed on him a burden that he could never bear and that has lead to some issues in our relationship in the past. I know that now. I wished I would have known that then. I also got married to escape my parents household. There was no options for me besides going back to hell aka home or staying in hell aka a strict Bible college. Could I have walked out and started over in some random town on my own? Of course I physically could have, but I wasn’t mentally prepared to do that. I just could not even grasp at the time that that was an option. I really am in awe of some young adults that just strike out on their own and start businesses and go on adventures. It is very inspiring to know that some people have that sort of confidence and bravery.
Back to the story….I am now married and as my husband cannot fill these gaps for me and reality starts setting in, I begin to become depressed. I now know that I have generations of family that struggle with depression and the results….men that turn to substance abuse and angry outbursts and women that have low self worth and depend on men. I’d like to say that I was different, but I know I wasn’t. How can you be anything but what you were trained to be? I start thinking that maybe if marriage isn’t all it is cracked up to be, and I still haven’t found something that fills those holes in my life, maybe motherhood will do that for me. I should have been encouraged to work on me and not keep resorting to other people or other things to fill those holes. As a woman, I had no other options within the current church system. Keep in mind, my husband worked for the church off and on, we were heavily involved, and I had very few friends outside of church especially once I quit my job to raise children. We begin trying to have a baby and after about 18 months, finally a baby is on the way. The extended family is excited, my friends are jealous, and I have new found approval and attention from my church (also IFB at the time). I begin to feel that something is finally going to be right and something is finally going to turn out in my favor and be everything I thought it would be. You can see what a dream world I was in considering I grew up in a family of 9 children and knew well the financial hardships and other struggles that come with having children when you have little education and few resources. But we press on. Baby #1 is born. There is a pretty significant push for Baby #2 right away which was surprising because my husband was pushing for this too. We have discussed it thoroughly and come to the conclusion that he was just as pressured as I was to create this life that Fundamentalism told us was THE WAY. He would constantly go back and forth about our family size. I see now what the real conflict was about, him fighting between what he wanted and what the church and family would approve of, but at the time, I just felt unloved and confused. Baby #2 is special needs (again, we did not know this at the time). Fundamentalism does not prepare young people AT ALL for the reality that a child may have a special need. In fact, the system generally does not believe in the idea of mental disorders and medical assistance or worse, frames sermons and comments around the idea that medical issues are a punishment from God. There is a bigger pause at this time as we deal with a child that is not typical as well as an almost break up of our marriage (a whole different post….). We stupidly consider the pursuit of children because we feel pressure to have more than two. In Fundamentalism, two is like quitting. You gave up, you didn’t do it right, you closed the door to God’s blessing by not having more, and you didn’t trust him to meet your family’s growing needs. At this point, my husband is feeling really hesitant, but I will admit that I pressured him for more. Baby #3 comes along. The conflict continues….should we have more or not? Is it okay to pursue permanent birth control? Is it bad to let things like limited finances and obvious lack of resources decide your family size? In our ongoing conflict, we had a birth control mishap and 9 months later, welcome baby #4. At this point, our finances are stretched to the limit. We are both working more than 40 hours a week even though I am also at home with the kids! My husband was working 80ish hours a week for awhile. He had been working two jobs for years and now added on a third. We get on some public assistance just to feed our family (again, that is another post in itself). We are both exhausted. And you know what we heard at church? Tithe more. Give more. Be here more. Send your kids to school here and pay for it. Wear this. Go there. Do these ministries (with kids, serving kids, doesn’t matter if you are barely keeping upright in your exhaustion). Don’t wear this/be this/do this/say this/go there. No real help. Nobody checking on us when we are clearly struggling. No encouragement or spiritual helps in the sermon. No relief via adults only activities at church. No help with any real concerns, not even a food pantry. Condemnation about “people on welfare” as if only losers need help.
I cannot even describe how alone I felt at this point. It is one of the reasons we left that church. We are real people, trying hard but needing help and not getting anything but judgment. Nothing is ever good enough. It is too exhausting physically and mentally to be in that type of church any longer. I saw good and well what the patriarchal systems results in….exhausted, overworked, under-appreciated mothers and wives that are continually disregarded and that was the best it was going to be. The worse of it was abuse or worse at the hands of men and nothing done about it. Thankfully my own husband was never like that. He was kind. He tried so hard to be everything they thought he should be. He never fit in….thank God!
So now we are living fully in the results of this journey. I still struggle on a daily basis with the desire to pursue my own dreams and the responsibilities I now have. I created this family. I have a duty to my children.
But they have hope. They are being raised in a more appropriate way in a MUCH better church. They will have options I never had and acceptance and love even if they choose an non-traditional path. They have gratitude. From me. They helped me see the big picture and finally make some real changes.
And I have hope. Sure I am bogged down in diapers, meals and laundry. But it won’t always be like that. We aren’t having anymore kids thanks to modern medicine. And I am halfway through my college degree! It is hard work but so rewarding. There is something else out there for me. I can feel it. Someone once told me that whatever you are naturally drawn to is what you are supposed to be doing. And I believe that. I am still going to write and travel and help people and get an amazing career someday. Just with a few extra little ones on board this journey.
One of the things I love best about no longer being in Fundamentalist circles is the freedom to think about things. The system oppresses a person so much that I know for me, I felt scared or guilty to even think about doing anything outside of the status quo. Now I think about and talk about whatever comes to mind. Sometimes I talk about things that I seriously doubt I would ever do, just because I enjoy thinking about new things and coming to my own conclusions.
For instance, I have been thinking about getting a tattoo. Now for anyone that actually knows me, they would know that I am a huge baby about anything that might be risky or painful. I would really surprise myself if I ever went through with getting a tattoo. I have no problem with the idea itself nor anyone that has a tattoo. I think body art can really be meaningful as well as beautiful although there are of course some horrendous tattoos I have seen in pictures online….we will save that discussion for another post! So anyways, if I got one, I am thinking about getting a phoenix or possibly a bird coming out of a cage. I know the bird cage idea is quite popular but what I was thinking about doing is having one bird opening the door for the other birds. I like the idea that one can help another to escape. Another idea is the quote “love is all you need” because I truly believe that a true, unselfish love can conquer anything. The kind of love that only God can give to us and can teach us to give to each other. I am still learning a lot about how to give unselfishly without blame or judgment, just love. That will take me a whole lifetime to learn, and I feel that the idea in general is something that I would be fine with putting on my body forever. Much more meaningful than a random cartoon character wouldn’t you say?
All of this to say, I have been thinking about so many things and it is hard to focus my thoughts on particular issues to express in my blog.
For now, I am focused on freedom of my mind. Freedom.
Soak it in. It is wonderful right?!
I remember a time when I was a young school ager, not more than 7 years old, that I had this thought “My parents don’t know what they are doing”. It was scary. I am living in a house and not able to trust what the adults around me are doing. Feeling as if I needed to figure out motives behind actions, be suspicious of those around me, worry that I needed to figure out so many things that I never should have been thinking about as a young child.
When you would sit me on the counter and vent about your husband, my step dad, I wish you would have stopped and said “I am not going to talk to about this. I am going to take care of it, and you can trust that you don’t need to worry about it”.
When my step dad was beating and torturing our family, I wish you would have stood up for us kids and demanded this behavior stop immediately.
I wish you would have protected me from adult discussions about infidelity, drugs and other inappropriate topics.
I wish you would have shielded me from worry about food, clothing and shelter, even if you couldn’t provide those things all the time.
I wish you would have told me that I was wonderful just the way God made me and not compare me to a sibling who was forever just a little bit prettier and smarter than me.
I wish you wouldn’t have relied on me to care for a special needs sibling, or a younger sibling, or you for that matter.
I wish you would have been real to those around us instead of forever scrambling to keep a facade up of the perfect Christian family.
I never expected you to be perfect. I just wanted you to be a little bit stronger than I was. I didn’t want to be thrown out in the waves of life with no anchor, no shore to swim for and no lighthouse for guidance.
I am an adult. I still need my mom. She is still not there.
I feel lost and alone a lot of the time. I have no grandmother or mother to turn to. My older siblings are a long distance away both physically and emotionally.
I am alone. The only thing I know to do is to hang on for dear life and try to create something different for my own daughters.
I have been thinking about resolutions and in all the fuss to get this year off to a great start, sometimes we forget to review the last year. I have been a bit frustrated by some recent personal issues. I have a bad habit of getting down about too many things, and this post is my effort to give myself a virtual high five and see how far I have come.
Last year at this time, I was still in a very strict Fundamentalist church. Oppressed, discouraged and unhappy. Here I am 12 months down the road and happily attending a church that is well rounded, balanced, loving and encouraging. Sure we have lost some “friends” along the way and received a lot of judgment over our decision, but we did it. We finally stopped complaining, stopped making excuses and stopped waiting for the church system to get it together.
This past year, even amidst all my personal struggles, I made some great changes! I can raise my girls in a home that focuses on equality and freedom and opportunity, something they never would have been given at our old church (and school). I can raise my son to be something other than a passive follower or a prideful leader. I can pursue my dreams of further education and working outside the home without constant preaching on what I should and should not be doing. My husband can finally let go of that guilt for becoming something other than a preacher. I can’t tell you how frustrating it has been to see him looked down upon for (gasp) being an honest, hardworking, lay person. It wasn’t right for the church to make him feel bad for not completing a pastoral degree at an unaccredited college, insert eye roll here.
We made a BIG change in 2013 and I am going to take a moment to glory in that victory and thank God that he kept telling me “this isn’t right” over and over again. Sure it took 10 years but I finally listened. Now He and I can move on to some new lessons!
I would encourage you to look back at this past year and focus on the positives and become excited for the future. Anything can happen! Make those big changes that you have been waiting years to make. You can do it!
I purchased a sack full of books from Barnes and Noble for my Christmas gift. The first book I read in three days! I have been meaning to read this book and am happy to share a short review on my blog. The book is titled A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans. The premise is that the author took one year to explore many different definitions of Biblical womanhood especially in reference to traditional gender roles and traditional Jewish customs. Each month of the year is a different focus. I enjoy reading her experience and perspective although I may or may not agree with all of her approaches or opinions. The book does have humor and a good flow, as well as being an easy read. I think it would be appropriate for teenage girls as well.
I’d like to share some of my favorite portions.
The month of October has a focus on the trait of gentleness. The author comes to the conclusion that “….I think maybe that God was trying to tell me that gentleness begins with strength, quietness with security”. The question of gentleness is a big debate especially in Fundamentalist circles. I have always been of the opinion that gentleness is more about appropriate behavior and self control versus being a doormat for others to walk over. It is a great topic and I feel every Christian person needs to come to terms with what this trait means.
The month of November has a focus on the trait of domesticity. The author comes to the conclusion that “…in our efforts to celebrate and affirm God’s presence in the home, we should be wary of elevating the vocation of homemaking above all others by insinuating that for women, God’s presence is somehow restricted to that sphere.” I really appreciated that quote. I am currently furthering my own education with the goal of returning to work outside the home once my littlest is school age. I know that I have struggled with pressure to remain as a homemaker as well as include homeschooling into our life. These choices are not bad. I fully support others choosing this. However, it is not for me and I have made peace with the knowledge that God’s presence and approval is not restricted to the 5 by 5 foot area that is my kitchen.
Skipping to the month of January which has the focus on the trait of valor. Here the author spends a lot of the chapter discussing the Proverbs 31 woman. This passage is often used as a checklist of sorts, especially in Fundamentalist groups. The Proverbs 31 woman is used as a weapon to oppress Christian woman into one role, one mold, one definition of Christian womanhood. The author discusses the fact that there is no proof that the Proverbs 31 woman was an actual person as well as discussing the Jewish traditions associated with the passage. It is traditional in Jewish culture for the men to quote the passage to the women and recite it in song at the Sabbath meal. According to the author, the passage “…at its core is a blessing – one that was never meant to be earned, but to be given, unconditionally”. I love the intent that the passage was traditionally an encouragement to others with the assumption that any woman could be a woman of valor, that there wasn’t just one definition to earn that. Love it. Additionally, the author says “The Proverbs 31 woman is a star not because of what she does but how she does it-with valor”. The final conclusion being that many things can be done with valor and that woman aren’t restricted to just the activities of the Proverbs 31 woman.
Skipping to the month of March and the hot topic of modesty. This is a huge debate especially with Fundamentalists. Way too much to cover, but I would like to share my favorite quote. The author says “More often than not, this (regulating modesty among church members) backfires, and our attempts to be different result in uniformity, our attempts to be plain draw attention to ourselves, our attempts to temper sexuality inadvertently exploit it, and our attempts to avoid offense accidentally create it”. This exactly explains my issue with the modesty rules at my previous church. It is not just me being a “rebel” and wanting to wear pants and whatnot. It is the principle behind the rules. I don’t have a problem with individuals choosing to wear very conservative clothing. I do have a problem with others feeling like they have the right to regulate the clothing for my family. I also have a problem with the consequences of a system that regulates others apparel and activities.
April discusses the subject of purity and contains a great overview of the Biblical account of the woman who was healed of her blood disease.
Skipping to June, submission is discussed. Another hot topic for Fundamentalists! What a great chapter with some thought provoking subjects. My favorite quote “Women should not have to pry equality from the grip of Christian men. It should be surrendered willingly, with the humility and love of Jesus, or else we miss the once radical teaching that slaves and masters, parents and children, husbands and wives, rich and poor, healthy and sick, should submit to one another”.
July discusses justice. Great topic. Love it. Includes a great explanation about the differences between charity and justice.
August discusses silence, specifically the idea that the Bible supposedly supports women being silent in the church and not exercising authority over men. The conclusion has another great quote of “There is a big difference, after all, between being silenced and silencing oneself”. That about sums up my beliefs….focusing on individual self control and appropriateness versus one authority figure making mass decisions and silencing and oppressing one gender in favor of the other.
I highly recommend this book. It’s an easy read in that the flow is great. It was hard for me to put down but also, not a big deal if you need to take a break and come back to it later. Some lighter moments as well as a feeling of relatability versus superiority.
A quick blog post with random memories for Christmases in my past. I will say here that I do suffer from PTSD and was told that my spotty memory is due to this disorder. There are huge chunks of my childhood that I cannot remember. I have been told that there are therapy approaches to help recover some of that memory, but I can’t say that I am interested in recovering those. For now, I feel that my mind is in protective mode, and I don’t know that I am ready for any recovered memories. What I do remember is more than enough.
So what is Christmas like when your parents are increasingly more conservative as the years go by? What about if you add in the fact that one parent is bi-polar/abusive/addicted and the other is co-dependent/depressed/childlike?
My earliest memory of Christmas is one of my older sisters making a tree out of paper and hanging it behind the bedroom door as a quiet protest for my step-dad’s “no Christmas” rules. I know she was caught, the tree taken down, and I don’t know for sure what happened next. Judging from the fact that my step-dad was incredibly abusive, it was not good.
I was confused about what the rules and why they were put in place. I know we did not have a Christmas tree, any decorations or any presents because my step-dad thought that Christmas was a pagan holiday. The rules evolved to become stricter over the years. We had to sit out of school or church activities, including any parties, plays, nativity scenes or any other holiday gathering. This included anything at church even if it was centered around the birth of Christ. I think there were times that we did not even attend church services if there was a decorated tree on stage. We weren’t allowed to give or receive gifts from anyone else. We did not spend time with any family or friends over the holidays lest we be influenced. I know we were told that decorations on the tree symbolized the fruit on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Bible. Taking gifts from under the tree and then giving to others supposedly symbolized Eve giving the fruit to Adam which he accepted. Every single Christmas character, story or event had an evil foundation and purpose or so my step-dad thought. He was pretty creative in finding evil symbolism in the simplest of traditions. I think at one point I was actually afraid of Christmas trees. I thought maybe the evilness would be an invitation for Satan to come into our house. As the years passed, my step-dad became more and more unpredictable and crazy and my mom usually caved to his demands. Every now and then, she was sneak something past him or allow us to participate in some way probably just out of guilt for what she was putting her kids through each year.
One year, we were going out of town to avoid all Christmas of any sort, including church activities. I put a note on top of a bookshelf in our living room. I wrote a note to Santa. I was maybe around 10 years old. I don’t remember exactly what I wrote, but I do remember wanting to believe that Santa was real. I needed to know that someone was out there that cared about me, even if it was just one day a year. I asked Santa to read my note and then move it to the other bookshelf as a sign that he was real. I don’t think I even asked for any gifts. When we returned, the letter was of course still in the original spot, and I remember feeling so hopeless. No one knew what I was going thru, and I felt I would be alone forever in abuse and isolation.
The first few years as a young adult in my own house, I was definitely still fearful that my step-dad was right and that celebrating Christmas would being evilness into my home. It has been around 15 years since I moved out, and while I really enjoy Christmas now, my husband does almost all of the decorating and purchasing. I can’t help but think that my childhood is still ruining the amount of enjoyment I could get from the holidays. I also have no traditions from my childhood, and it has been very hard to start traditions for my own kids. I don’t know where to start, what would be fun, and what would be “okay” to do. I have no idea why I still feel that tiny need to get approval over my holiday goings-on. That said, each year has been better and better. We try to balance having fun with our minimalist approach to life. I am trying not to swing to the other extreme in effort to get as far away from my childhood as possible.
Things are really changing though. My mom has since divorced my step-dad. She texted a picture of her Christmas tree to me recently. I can safely say that no one has been demon possessed since going to see Santa at the mall or attending a cookie exchange.
Fiddler on the Roof is one of my favorite movies. I recently watched a documentary about the author of this work and found it very interesting. One thing I learned was that in the original writings, the father in Fiddler never does reconcile with this daughter Chava at the end of the story. In the movie, the family is leaving for America and the father tells Chava “God be with you” and it is implied that he comes to terms with her choice to marry a non-Jew and that there is a reconciliation of sorts. In the writings, this does not happen. The father is forever estranged from his daughter by his own choice. One of the commentators in the documentary says this is why: the daughter marrying a non-Jew is basically an act that forces him to confront everything he stands for. He can either pick his faith or he can pick his family. It cannot be both.
I like that the movie implies that he picked his family while still retaining his faith and am disheartened to know that the original work by the author did not really end that way. Pretty typical of Hollywood glossing things over and giving us what we really want, a happy ending.
Now we get on to my point. The Fiddler on the Roof is like Christian Independent Fundamental Baptists in at least one way. The denomination (or cult as many people see it) forces members into a corner where they can stick with their chosen style of faith or they can side with their family and friends. It cannot be both. You cannot show acceptance or love for people with different opinions while still holding onto the basic foundation of Fundamentalism. The basic foundation is “I am right, you are wrong, and I cannot allow you to be in influence on me and my children so either we all be the same in every way or you are no longer welcomed”. This concept is one of the things that I hate about Fundamentalism. It makes you choose. Everything is black and white. You cannot stand in the middle. You cannot accept anyone else that is standing in the middle or standing on the other side. They do not know how to agree to disagree nor do they know how to love while still disagreeing. You can forget about expecting most of them to actual learn from anyone outside of their circle so changing their minds is almost never an option.
The documentary helped me understand why people I have been friends with for 15 years would drop me like a hot potato once I no longer attended their church. And why people that have been friends with my husband since he was born are no longer speaking with him. It doesn’t make it okay though.
Something has really been bothering me lately. I have no idea why I haven’t thought of this before.
My husband and I were talking about what we might have done in our career paths if we had the option. Neither of us had the support or information to chose an accredited college right after high school. The thing that struck me most about this conversation was the fact that in many, many Fundamentalist circles, it doesn’t matter what family you are from, what church, etc., a girl is never going to have the options a boy might have.
A man is expected to support his family and be the sole breadwinner. Many of the boys in these circles are undersocialized and poorly educated so manual labor type jobs are common. However, there is still a big range of jobs within that type, and many men are able to work their way up to better paying jobs. Many of the boys are prepped for these type of jobs in their childhood. They can still find their way to a job that might be a good fit and one in which they may find a sense of accomplishment and purpose and satisfaction. Their self worth is not solely tied up in their spouse, children, or church although the church can be a strong influence on boys raised this way.
A girl is expected to stay at home, have babies, homeschool them as well as wifely duties and managing the household. The girls are prepped for this work from babyhood. This type of preparation barely ever translates to a job should a girl need to get a job outside of the home. The vast majority of these types of jobs (caring for children, cleaning houses, etc.) pay minimum wage with no room for advancement. Like the boys, the girls are often undersocialized and poorly educated which further limits job opportunities, should they ever be allowed to work outside the home. They certainly would not have many options at all in the case of a spouse divorcing or abandoning them.
There is no wiggle room for girls raised this way. You don’t even think about “what do I want to be when I grow up?” because you know the answer. A three year old has the same answer as the eighteen year old. You will be a wife and mom and that is it. If you are allowed to attend a college, it will more than likely be a very small, strict, unaccredited college where you will learn next to nothing while you wait around for a boy to take notice of you.
All these factors propel girls to marry young to the first boy that comes along. You have one goal in life and if you can reach that goal of marriage and motherhood, then you might have a sense of accomplishment for the first time in your life. You have no other options to find fulfillment in life outside of husband and children. You are expected to give a lot of time and money to the church, but your efforts will almost entirely be limited to grunt work. By the time you are mature enough to begin to see the big picture, you are 25 with a houseful of young kids and no opportunities or support to do anything else. Ever.
I find that women my age, 30s, in the Fundamental circles are depressed, bored, understimulated by life and detached from husband and kids. They put on the show of being nice and happy when they have to be aka Sunday morning but the rest of the time, they are lonely and isolated and discouraged. The awful part though is that many do not change at all and raise their girls to be the exact same thing they are. Its an awfully sad sight to watch. When their kids are older, they cannot let go of them, because they have nothing left after motherhood. Many times they are horribly overbearing grandmothers as well. Or the other extreme happens which is even worse to me. Mothers who are so far detached from their children that they are unloving and uncaring when a child is going thru a crisis, when a teen runs away, or when an adult child takes a different path. They are ready and willing to cut these kids out of their life in pursuit of approval from the church.
I see from my husband’s point of view how limited his choices and opportunities are and even with that said, a girl has about a third of what a boy has. They emerge from the womb with every step of their life already planned out for them. There is no individual there. Her importance is in what she will do and be for everyone else, not who she is as a person.
One of the many reasons I am no longer in the Independent Fundamental Baptist circles who operate like this. My girls can thank me some day.
Girls in Fundamentalist circles are raised to be mothers and wives. If they are allowed to attend college, it is usually one particular college of their parents choosing and is many times, unaccredited. This means that employers in real life will not recognize their education nor will they be able to transfer credits to an accredited college or university. I went to a Fundamentalist college. Girls there were NOT interested in meeting people and dating casually. They almost all wanted to find “the one”. “The one” was almost always a preacher boy from a good family and good looking as well. A boy was unofficially considered second class if he was not studying to be a pastor. Bonus points for snagging a guy from a well known pastor’s home. There wasn’t a lot of emphasis put on how he treated others or really any other personality trait outside of “is he going to be a preacher?” and “what church is he from?”. Junior and senior girls started getting desperate and settling for guys. Most of the unmarried staff, even in their young 20s, were considered lost causes. If they were a catch, why were they 22 and not dating yet? or at least that is what people quietly wondered. I never once heard any girl counseled to put off an engagement, say no to an engagement, or finish their education first. I do know some families encouraged their daughters to finish school before getting married, but that was more of an exception and normally every senior girl was married or engaged or really really close to getting engaged. Many, many girls drop out of school before their senior year and a lot of them drop out because they got married. Of course, a boy was not at all expected to date seriously and it wasn’t looked down upon to graduate without a wife or fiancee. A boy was encouraged to ask many girls for dates while a girl was NEVER to ask a boy for a date, never. The girls were also told to always say yes to a date unless they were married. Even engaged girls were told they should not say no to others! I never understood that and many engaged girls would never date anyone else but their fiance, however I wanted to highlight how screwed up dating in the Fundamentalist circle is. A girl is available unless she is married. She isn’t encouraged to be free to say no to particular guys. You are to give any guy a chance, unless you are married, because you don’t want to be considered mean or rude or frigid. You are to be inviting and charming and ladylike to all guys so they get the chance to practice dating. It really doesn’t matter if you think they are weird or feel uncomfortable around them. This actually encouraged guys to be really harassing toward girls because many girls would back down and say yes not because they liked this boy, but because they did not want others to think poorly of them.
I just want to insert a quick slightly off-topic thought that many girls were highly encouraged to take one or two year degrees. That is all the time they should need in order to find a man. Also, the girls had no intention of working long term after college so it was just a way to be around potential husbands and help create a little income till they got married. There was little to no thought put into a career path or any long term goals. Nor were the girls taught what the real world is……that pastors and missionaries live on very small incomes and most wives end up having to find ways to supplement that. I cannot tell you the number of wives that down the line went back to college or long term jobs because they did not take their college choices seriously and now were stuck either furthering education or working long hours for low wages.
What happens if you don’t get married and finish college? You only have three choice. You can stay at the college and work on staff there has ladies dormitory supervisors and secretarial type jobs. (Rarely did I ever see a girl graduate and then go to the staff at a different college. Fundamentalist colleges are notorious for hating each other). You can go to the staff at a church that will recognize the education from that college. These jobs are very hard to find because most Fundamental churches cannot afford very many on staff. One of the only options would be as a teacher at a one of their Christian schools. You must be prepared to work long hours with multiple grade levels and put in even more hours for church activities outside of the school responsibilities. Most of the time, you would live with a church family and you certainly wouldn’t be free to come and go as you please. The last option is to go home.
So we come to the discussion of “stay at home daughters”. It is highly discouraged for a girl to live on their own, regardless of whether they went to college or not. You go home, help at home, help at the church, and patiently wait for God to send “the one”. If he doesn’t come soon, you are to start accepting your life as a single person with grace and a good attitude. All the energy you might have put into husband and children, go into the church. No other pursuit is acceptable and that means that further education or a career will be looked down upon.
I currently know three “stay at home daughters” from different families. I will share a little bit about their stories and say that not one of them is an exception at all. Their stories are very common within Fundamental circles.
Girl 1. Pastors daughter who is a nice girl but very unmotivated toward an education. She went to college for a two year degree in a field which she had no interest in. She didn’t met “the one”. She finished her degree, is not using it at all, and is home now doing nothing. She spends a lot of time with her parents, helps at the church and occasionally pieces together doing work outside the church for minimum wage. She is very lost, quiet and depressed. I have also heard that she is quite obsessed with her body, and I personally believe that she may have a eating/over exercising disorder. The other kids in that church (not my church just for the record) are told that she is a success story because she is young 20s, a virgin, helping at the church and still under the control of her parents. Happiness or personal fulfillment are not at all a priority for Fundamentalists.
Girl 2. went to college and within weeks got into trouble with a boy. Enough trouble where both her and the boy were kicked out of school. The family quickly tried to cover the scandal and she is now engaged to a boy that she only spent a few weeks getting to know. She is very young and will be married by 19. This boy is quite a bit older, enough where there is an “ick” factor, but it is common for young men to marry girls significantly younger. After that, if her and this boy stay in a like minded church, they will be considered a success even though they are both uneducated and will surely face a multitude of issues from sheer immaturity. It is not at all uncommon for girls to get involved with the first boy that comes along after the girls are allowed to date. They have no exposure to boys, no teaching about relationship outside of “boys are bad, don’t have sex”, nor can they navigate the pressure or attention that can come from males.
Girl 3. went to college but was unable to manage time, money, and other issues that come with living independently even in a college where the girls are boxed in by a huge range of rules. She struggled with friendships and homesickness. It was similar to tossing a junior high girl out of the house. They may think it is fun and exciting but before too long, even they can see that they are unable to care for themselves, hold a job, complete classes and manage relationships because they have never done any of those things and certainly not by themselves and all together at once. She failed her classes. She is home now, helping out at home and at the church. She is struggling to find any type of job, even fast food, because she has no education, very little experience, and a demeanor that shows she is not capable nor confident in the most basics of skills. She also has no financial credit, does not manage her own money and is not being encouraged to move forward in her adult life. Right now, she is still considered a success in the Fundamentalist world because she is living under her parents control and has not gotten into trouble with a boy.
I think most normal people can see that these girls are set up to fail. They are given no opportunities and very little options. I personally wouldn’t consider an unemployed, uneducated adult child living in my home to be a success but this scenario is looked upon favorably in the Fundamentalist circle.