One of the arguments against Christian women attending college centers around the notion that wives and mothers don’t *need* higher education, that what they *need* is to immerse themselves in homelife. These young women place themselves in an environment with a housewife and small children and lots of housework to do. This household is either the woman’s own home and under the direct influence of her mother and father, or it’s another home with the proper conditions, under the influence of a suitable family which has been approved, of course, by the woman’s father.
My question is, just how much of this kind of preparation does a woman need? Honestly, now. It probably took three loads of dishes in my miniscule kitchen sink before I knew just how to stack glasses and plates in the drainer, just what to wash first, just what to do to discover the most efficient way of doing dishes. It takes say, three minutes to look at the pile of laundry and know that there are six loads of clothes and one of diapers (which takes longer) and that I certainly can catch up today and possibly vacuum the laundry room floor, to boot! It takes thirteen seconds to find a recipe on the internet to make for dinner tonight, another twenty three seconds to email my husband and ask him to pick up some loose leaf lettuce and a tomato on his way home from work. It seems to me that general housework and home management could be learned fairly quickly, if one were nominally interested and not over-zealous with an acre of organic garden and a loom to weave textiles that will clothe the entire family and the worse-off family down the street.
Let’s be generous and say that it could be a practical and beneficial situation for a woman to spend one year in such a circumstance. Assuming that she’s been sitting on cushions eating strawberries and cream all her life, her education or apprenticeship or whatever they want to call it will start with the basics. During that year she will learn how to clean the house from top to bottom, to cook three meals a day without ever resorting to pop tarts or take-out. She’ll learn how to manage multiple children at once, juggling diaper changes and dart guns and american girl doll buttons at the same time without screaming and running for the street. She’ll learn how to work within a budget, feeding and clothing a family on one income. She’ll even have time for the extras that will truly make her a woman of housewifery accomplishment: sewing, knitting, basic gardening, recycling, the grinding of wheat and baking of bread, and more!
After this one year in which she has learned how to be a housewife, what next? More years of the same? Why? Extra practice? In order to impress a man in search of such a woman who can do it all, and do it while he’s watching with her father and a cigar from the next room, a commercial of sorts for the tools of the trade with which she is so readily equipped?
Could the reasoning be rooted in discontentment? These women want to be married and want to have children but have not yet been blessed with a spouse and a household of their own. So instead of embracing the season of life in which they currently live, the season of being a single adult, they’ve decided, or their fathers have decided for them, to live in another season of life. Rather than doing things that are commonly done while single, such as working for and earning a college education, or pursuing a career, since they do not have their own pile of dishes to scrub and floors to sweep, they live vicarously through another woman’s brillo and besom.
Am I missing something here? The most obvious things that one would need to learn in order to fulfil this particular kind of role should not take very long at all. Is it a relationship issue? Observing healthy marriages at work, observing parent/child relationships? How much will the lengthy observation of another woman’s marriage and another woman’s children assist the apprentice in her own relationships, should she ever have them? Observation only gives so much, and no matter how involved someone is in the lives of another, it’s no blueprint for the future. The apprentice will marry another man and have other children, all of whom come with their own unique personalities and quirks. Is it then necessary to live in and observe this way? If so, for how long?
I’m not opposed to homemaking apprenticeship, not at all. In general, it sounds like a good idea. It seems to me, though, that a woman who is 18 and has lived in a bread-baking, child-loving, one-income household her entire life would already know the bulk of what she’s supposedly so desperate to learn in her apprenticeship. And if she is deficit in an area, then learning what is needed shouldn’t take years and years to remedy. Is college out of the question for these women, then? Why is it an either/or issue?
Or is the “I need to do things that will prepare me for life as a wife and mother” statement a red herring? Is the real issue the need of these parents to control another person or to control women? Does it boil down to the parents wanting to control every decision of the child, even the grown child? If so, at what point does a grown woman have any control over the specifics of her life? Ever? Does the issue center around the patriarchal idea that a daughter is controlled by her father until she is passed on to an approved husband who will also control her? Does submission mean that the woman never makes choices without first having approval from a man, that she cannot educate herself and learn and believe things that may be contrary to the beliefs of her father or her husband? Is not submission something a person decides to do because they want to do it? In the same way that obedience from children cannot be forced (compliance can be forced, and often should be, but obedience is willing, it’s something the child does out of love for the parent), submission cannot be forced, can it?