If I don’t get married and I don’t go to college, what is a Fundamentalist daughter to do?

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. 

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