Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Pursuits in the single years

"Anna, I love what you say, and am so inspired by much of it. But what would you think of wise, feminine (maternal, perhaps?) authority, for the benefit of both sexes--such as you could provide? No one would ask a talented young man to simply keep his opinions and his abilities within the family sphere, and I hate to see that asked of a young woman. My family is the most important thing in the world to me, second only to G-D, but it does seem a sorrowful thing not to make some genuine use of the strengths and talents He has given us, in order to help others in this afflicted and suffering world--in a way that creates real change. Yours from an admiring sister, Jenn"

I got this comment the other day and thought I would reply to it in a separate post, since it was made in reply to older post and I didn't want it to be lost in the thread.

I must admit I'm not sure I understand what precisely is meant here by feminine or maternal authority. Surely in a family both the father and mother are meant to be figures of authority, though the father is ultimately the leader. I have seen families where the father's authority was pushed aside and the mother dominated the scene, and on the contrary, families where the husband and father was so aggressively authoritative that his wife had practically no voice of her own. In both cases I didn't see a healthy family environment. A key factor that was lacking was that of both parents demonstrating respect to each other's authority, particularly in front of the children.

As to the difference in the application of talent between young men and young women, I have never said that young women must be confined in a way that would make them sorry for their lack of opportunities. It's true that the single years provide a leisure of time and possibilities which probably won't be repeated at any other stage of life. But this precious time must be used wisely.

The vast majority of young men and women will be eventually married and will become parents, and for many, it will happen sooner than they realize. That's why I'm puzzled by the modern attitude of not thinking about the prospect of marriage and children until it actually comes knocking at our door. When I talk to my single friends about their future as wives and mothers, I often get statements such as "I'm not even seeing anyone yet", or "I can't think about this right now, I have more pressing matters". I don't think such an attitude is right, because eventually, the highest ambition of these girls is to start a family, yet right now they are wasting years and years focusing entirely on things which will have nothing to do with wifehood and motherhood. They spend far too much time and money pursuing college educations and careers, and get emotionally involved with men who are clearly unfit for marriage. Somehow thinking ahead looks inappropriate and prudish, while it is in fact the most logical thing in the world.

So, what is it that I'm trying to say? Since both men and women ideally aspire to become husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, they must adequately prepare for such important tasks. For men, the preparation will include setting the foundation for providing for one's family – acquiring a profession, possibly accumulating some property and savings. I'm not saying a man must be rich when he marries. He might not even be well-off. But he must be prepared to provide for all the necessities of a wife and possibly, very soon future children. The practical side is far from being everything. A man must learn his duties as a husband, father and leader in a family, and his responsibility towards a wife and children.

For a woman, the tasks are mainly centered on supporting her husband, raising children and running the home. Therefore, her preparation is different – practically, she learns all that is concerned with household tasks and what it takes to keep a good home. She learns how to be wise with finances, how to stretch what she has and be content with what is available, and make the most of it. She learns how to provide adequate nutrition for her family and especially for herself, as a future mother. Here, again, I have seen opposite cases – of women who were so self-centered that they didn't think they ought to contribute anything at all to a household and wasted a lot of the hard-earned family money on trifles, and women who were so devoted that it came to self-denial and they didn't see fit to point out to the husband that skimping on food is inappropriate when there is an expectant or nursing mother in the picture. This ultimately resulted in harm done to herself and the child.

Spiritually, the aspiring wife learns what it means to be a help mate to her husband and a mother to children. For some lucky girls who come from good, stable families this spiritual preparation is almost soaked in by seeing the example of their parents. Some are misfortunately unprepared for marriage when they enter this sacred covenant. I consider myself among the latter – I did grasp the importance of being a wife, mother and homemaker before I was married, but I only started learning in my early twenties what I believe girls should be taught from their early teens. And still, you won't believe how helpful even those crumbs of knowledge had been. Everything I had to learn after marriage, was so much more difficult than it could have been for a single.

Not all the talents of a woman are directly related to being a wife and mother. Many of us have talents and interests which are apparently unrelated (though many of them may eventually come in handy while raising a family). Some women are artistic, others have particular interest in health and medicine, there are also those who are entrepreneurial and want to try a hand in running their own business. If they have time to actively pursue these talents at any point of their lives, it will most likely be during the single years. But even then, these pursuits must be seen in the light of her highest, most important calling of a wife and mother.

Let's say we have a woman who has always had a particular interest in physiology and in the human body. She also happens to be especially talented, and is prompted by all who know her to try to get accepted into medical school, without thinking what being a doctor, practically, means. By the way, I don't know about where you live, but here in Israel getting accepted into medical school is so difficult and so prestigious that many people try out for it just because they can. It's a sort of challenge which can be highly destructive for a person who undertakes it without proper consideration. Myself, I was told I ought to try out for medical school just because my grades were high enough to get me accepted. I never had any particular interest in becoming a doctor, but that sure seems like such a petty consideration, doesn't it?

But then, suppose this young woman goes to medical school, which takes her fast forward to ten years of exhausting studies (including specializing in a certain field), during which she has hardly a spare moment to think about anything but exams and internship, and during which, possibly, several young men who would make a great husband are denied because she "can't think of marriage at the moment", or perhaps she never even had the time to meet them. She must also pay a hefty sum for school, rent and possibly keeping a car, so she is very lucky if she avoided student debt. Let's assume she is fortunate, and when her studies are over and she is nearing her 30-th birthday one of those good men is still around. He wants to start a family, while she is just beginning her career. However she is already tired from the race, and realizes that she, too, wants a family – and then she sees that the profession she chose is largely incompatible with family life as she envisioned it.

What happened to this woman? Her intentions were good, she had it all thought out, she just wanted to do some "real change" out there in the world while she had the time as a single. Generally speaking, she got bogged down in pursuing something that was interesting, socially acceptable and gratifying to her sense of self-worth, while forgetting that in the long run, what would make her truly fulfilled is something entirely different. Many women come to this sobering realization after they have already invested their single years in something that only drove them farther away from marriage and motherhood. They are either on the verge of being done with their studies, with heaps of debt upon their shoulders and realizing that now they have to work in order to pay off that debt, or they already launched a successful career, which means they are powerfully propelled forward and getting off the track is considered a "terrible waste".

I truly cannot and will not give instructions on what it is that a young woman should do, specifically, in that period as a single adult, be it a short time or many years. However, I believe any woman aspiring to be a wife would be wise to ask herself the following questions: am I investing my true vitality in something that will eventually be incompatible with being a wife and mother? Am I, under the pretext of being productive and doing good in my single years, putting my time in pursuits that might actually cause me to deny or postpone the prospect of marriage? Are my heart and mind free to lay aside anything I might be doing, and focus on the highest calling of wifehood and motherhood as soon as the Lord blesses me with such an opportunity?

Of course, both men and women should be prudent. For men, too, there are certain professions which are not exactly compatible with peaceful family life, and they must take it into consideration when choosing their path. Both men and women must be responsible with their money and avoid debt. However each should focus on the future demands which will be made of him or her as a husband or wife, and prepare accordingly..  


Terry @ Breathing Grace said...

Great post, Anna. I am pretty convinced that this inability or unwillingness to prepare for the future and choose accordingly is the reason why so many young people are ill-equipped for the demands and sacrifices required to be a good spouse. This is a very large contributor to the divorce rate in modern culture.

La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin said...

Hi Anna! Your words have always been inspiring and motivating for me, even if we share very different worldviews. It's always an incredible, enlightening thing to feel a connection with women with different perspectives. I've been lurking for awhile and haven't commented, so here I go!

How do you feel about married couples waiting to have children until they are more secure in the world and have ammassed the experience, education and wealth to be able to provide for a family and truly devote themselves to parenthood together?

For example, I married a man almost 4 years younger than myself (a noticeable difference when you're in your 20s; I'm 28, he's 24). We are both extremely ambitious people and feel strong callings to operate in the public sphere. I have my master's degree, a career as a public servant and would love to work toward a PhD, and he has plans to finish his master's degree. He is an opera singer and will likely be contracting in many different places around the world. We are strongly considering moving in 3 weeks to Montreal, Canada from southeastern USA so that we can pursue a different lifestyle, leave the United States and learn French (possibly to prepare for a future in Europe).

In this case, we simply don't have (and don't desire) the stability required to bring up a child right now. My husband's career has a very, very rocky and dynamic initial path that broadens out a little later on, while I have a very broad educational background perfect for supporting us while he establishes his reputation. I do hope for a child in my future, but there are so many things that we need to do first to establish the foundation needed for us to bring us to a place in our lives where we are able to stop this busy pace and focus wholeheartedly on parenthood.

Do you have any insight regarding situations like mine, where the husband is younger and has a dynamic career path that requires his wife's support in the beginning? Do you think we have other options?

Kindest regards,

wildwesthome said...

Very well written Anna! I don't comment too often but I found this article written by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach on breastfeeding and was surprised by his views. Interested in your thoughts (if you can find the time!)


Susan said...

Anna, Thanks so much for the encouragement. My only daughter started high school last year. The summer before she and I began working on a plan of study to prepare her for her role as a wife and mother. We also discussed her desire (and ours for her) not to waste a bunch of money on a college degree. We agreed that she should take classes (such as nutrition, possibly midwifery, etc.) that would prepare her to be a homemaker but that her single years, be they few or many, would be spent at home, serving others and acquiring the skills needed to sere others.
Even though we live and move in a primarily conservative Christian environment, we ate still taking a lot of flack for this. Thus, your blogs on this topic are always very encouraging.

Mrs. Anna T said...


For a proper reply, I'd probably have to write a whole separate post on what you ask; in general, however, I believe people should only get married when they are ready to accept the possibility of parenthood.


I've read this article before. I was truly miffed by someone normally as wise as rabbi Shmuley lumping together breastfeeding and couples drifting apart after the birth of a child (which obviously happens for many couples where the wife doesn't breastfeed either). Perhaps, if time allows, I might do a post on this.

Joe and Elaine said...

What if the imaginary woman in your post finished medical school, became a successful doctor, and was incredibly happy and fulfilled in her vocation? What if waiting/preparing for a husband wasn't her primary objective?

Tatiana said...

As a single lady, I'm enjoying my time in my profession very much. I love being a science teacher, I've enjoyed getting my college education, and I am also focused on homemaking talents for when I do end up getting married and having children. I do believe a lady can get an education, can be a professional, and can be a wonderful wife and mother. I have no intention of staying in my profession once I have a child (as long as we can afford it), but I know I will be using my many talents and skills as a teacher to help my children grow.

I am very proud that my mother raised me to know how to run a household, cook, and clean--- and a little sewing and gardening thrown in as well. I know I will be a blessing to my future husband and any children we are blessed with.

So I do believe that while my season right now is to work, that I should prepare for the next season of creating a family with a man I love.

Thank you for all your wisdom Anna!

Lady M said...

Anna, He has a response here: http://www.shmuley.com/news/details/my_real_views_on_breastfeeding_children/

My personal opinion - these men who feel "pushed aside" or whatever their feeling is - they need to grow up. I also suspect the woman in the relationship needs to grow up a bit as well. And yes, absolutely, that first year, all of that "fun stuff" slows down. Moms are TIRED. Breastfeeding or not, babies are a lot of work. That year is a huge adjustment for all involved. Sigh. I suppose it is reflective of our "all about me" selfish society...

Analytical Adam said...

Sad to say I don't think there are good examples in the Orthodox Jewish world. I have to be honest. There aren't. The Rabbi's we have picked do not set good examples IMO.

Furthermore, a lot fo the women who are puting off getting married are never going to want to get married unless they are to unemotional men who are unfit because they don't want to share with their wives which men are suppose to do. A women can't be the helpmate to a man that is secretive.

Furthermore, I think are situation in the religious world is much worse then people pretend. I was at a single event and I roomed with a guy who'se youngest brother was married (in this age of feminism boys who are the youngest with older sisters seem to be the ones that they want to help get married) and with this guy I roomed with his youngest brother had 6 kids but him and his sister were both unmarried. He is 45 and his sister is 40. This averages to a birth rate of 2 but I'm sure the religious world ignores those who are unmarried who have a birth rate of zero. Only people that fit the feminst agenda (and usually the youngest boy with older siblings fits the bill very well) will be helped. Also children of Rabbinic families and many men were taught to hide behind women to keep themselves relevant. The book the church impotent talks about how the church hid behind women to remain relevant and the Jewish religion does similar. I think are birth rates are much lower then what people pretend from my own live experience with people I grew up with and seeing what I see on facebook. And many women ARE NOT getting married. The whole West the birth rates are not sustainable. I actually as my latest post on my blog that I haven't been too active with.

Also, sad to say in the religious world today men really have NO ROLE. Their role is do what the Rabbi says and maybe work but if they do work they should close their senses and be antisocial which I think one of the reasons men are suppose to work is it helps them not become dogmatic and insensitive when they have to deal with other people.

A man does usually know a little more then a woman in the outside supply and demand world because a man spends a little more time in this sphere. A woman spends a little more time in the sphere of home and children and therefore knows more in that sphere. Both need to respect that. But in today's environment a man's views is not respected and his experiences in the trenches being in the outside world women don't want to hear and neither do the male leaders. This leaves the men basically powerless and with no clear role other then working like a slave but on an emotional level no one listens to the man and that is terrible and why the Jewish world is in trouble as we can't treat men like this that they have no sphere that they can be listened to and expect the men to want to defend that culture if they are treated like this.

The whole west Feminism is going to destory the cultures and Israel including the religious are following this dangerous trend and a few people having many children doesn't change the fact that many you don't see are unmarried and have a birth rate of zero that are being excluded from dishonest studies. I would look at my recent post to see how low the birth rates throughout the west and all Christian countries and Isreael to be fair is going in the same direction and is following their lead sad to say.

Katie V. said...

Dear Anna,

I agree with everything you said except one point - your opening sentence - 'that eventually most men & women will get married.' Precisely because of all the points you mentioned, and more reasons, people are choosing not to get married. Statistics have shown a growing single population. I think that is both because it is chosen deliberately-living without responsibility of children, consumed with career and social pursuits,discouraged by divorce rates, lack of realization of sacred institution of marriage : the list could go on. Ultimately, our current modern lifestyle is not conducive to marriage and modern social trends are pushing marriage and family aside. Marriage and family need to be seen as a good for society...

Mrs. Anna T said...

Joe and Elaine,

In the majority of cases, even the woman who initially didn't think of marriage will initially want to have a family. And it might be too late and/or very complicated, given past choices.

Grace said...

Mrs Anna T - What if a woman never marries? What should she do then?

Robin said...

I agree. I, too, was unprepared as a wife and mother, though well prepared for a job. I am now a stay-at-home homeschooling mom to two children, and have had to learn as I go the best ways to organize my home and take care of my family.

MsJess said...

And yet I know of several female doctors who are married and have children. I used to work as a nanny and tutor for a family where both the parents were doctors. The mother who is an Ob-Gyn was especially an impressive woman who was very devoted to both her medical practice and her family. Obviously balancing a career as demanding as medicine with a family isn't a piece of cake but it's not impossible as you might think.

Alysa said...

Hi Anna,
I greatly enjoy your insights! I am a single girl, 26, and still waiting for God's time for me to be married. In the mean time, I am working in a job that is predominately a feminine role, and didn't require a college degree. I must admit, I could certainly brush up on my homekeeping skills, tho!
I came across this website, which answers many of the questions asked here, in a concise yet gentle way: http://raisinghomemakers.com/
Thanks again for your insights. I appreciate your viewpoint!

Julie said...

As a young, unmarried woman I was uplifted to read your post about the importance of preparation for marriage and motherhood. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Is His plan that I remain single? This is a question many women ask. I think the unmarried woman who wrote this article (link below) discusses common fears young women have. Also, she provides suggestions based on a Biblical perspective.