Archive for the ‘Dads’ Category

Is Motherhood a Calling?

Carla: We had a great conversation on Midday Connection and it raised some important questions in the comments on the blog. One issue came up in Dave’s set of comments on this post–and we know it will come up again and again and again so we are going to dig into it a lot deeper. And I want to be clear about something. We are not picking on Dave–he is voicing an opinion that we hear a lot and we appreciate his participation in the Revolution conversation. This post isn’t about Dave. It’s about an ideology that we just don’t buy. It’s this whole idea of motherhood as a calling. 

As you can probably guess, we wouldn’t call it that. Not because motherhood isn’t wonderful in many, many ways and not because we don’t believe God led us toward the lives we are living. We firmly believe that motherhood matters–a lot, that it is honorable and godly and worthy of respect and praise.  No, we wouldn’t use that word because we think it’s problematic. Here’s why:

1) It’s not biblical. Seriously, name one Bible verse that says motherhood is a calling. There aren’t any. There are, however, huge chunks of the Bible that tell us what we are called to as Christians–one could even say that’s kind of the point of the whole thing. 

  •  Deut. 10:11-13 is a longer version of something called the Shema (found in Deut. 6:5) which the nation of Israel held as its central calling. “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?”
  • Micah 6:8 says something similar: “He has shown all you people what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
  • Jesus talks about feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, caring for the needy. He doesn’t give an exemption for those of us with young children. Jesus includes women in his call to go into the world and make disciples. He never says a thing about calling women toward something else. He doesn’t give women what Dave calls a “proper focus,” he gives all people who follow him the same call–take up your cross.
  • Paul’s letters go into great detail about what the Christian life looks like and he rarely mentions parenting, much less motherhood. In fact, Paul is pretty clear–as was Jesus–that family life can often get in the way of following God. When parents are spoken of at all, it is in regard to their relationship to their children and the importance of honor and respect in that relationship. Paul spends most of his writing time teaching Christians to care for each other, to work together, to overcome their differences and find unity in their faith. He doesn’t single parents out as having a calling that is somehow more godly than others. In fact, he says the opposite–the body has many parts and all are needed. 

In general, parenthood in the Bible is a means to some other end. There are only a handful of specific examples of women being somehow chosen to have children: Sarah, who gave birth only after decades of praying for a child; Hannah who prayed and prayed for a  baby only to offer that child, Samuel, back to God when he was a toddler; Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist; and Mary, who was chosen to be the mother of Jesus. But those stories are not about how those women were called into motherhood for its own sake. Each of those stories is the launching point for the next part of God’s story. These are not stories about motherhood, but about faithful women who were mothers. They weren’t called to motherhood but to faith. The Bible shows us how to live as God’s people–and that impacts our parenting. But the Bible doesn’t say much about how we are to think about parenthood.

2) People keep using that word. We don’t think it means what they think it means. One of the best sermons I ever heard was about this idea of calling. The pastor talked about how blithely Christians use that word when in truth the Bible uses it very rarely. So there’s a difference between the actual sense of calling as it’s used in the Bible and the way most people use the word. Caryn and I both feel like we have followed God’s lead in the lives we have. But I have never felt called to motherhood. I feel called to be a good mother. I feel called to love my children like crazy, to teach them, to care for them, to protect them, to send them into the world as thoughtful, compassionate people who love God. But that is my calling as a Christian–to love the Lord with all my heart and soul and strength, to love my neighbor (which in this case means my children) as myself, and to teach this to my children. The call of Christ compels me to be a loving, caring parent. It doesn’t compel me to be a parent.

3) It boarders on idolatry. Dave made a statement that troubles me to no end. It is just the kind of statement that sends a deeper message to mothers: Dave mentions that a woman’s proper focus is the family. I’m not sure where he gets that. Well, I know where he gets it, but I don’t know what biblical basis he has for that statement. As I said, the gospel doesn’t include specifics about parenting. Jesus didn’t exempt mothers from participating in God’s work in the world. And Jesus wasn’t just talking to the men when he told his followers to feed and clothe and visit the poor and imprisoned. The idea that my three children are more important than other people goes against everything the Bible teaches. It makes an idol of my family. So I can’t justify having tunnel vision about my parenting. I can’t call myself a Christian and then live a life that centers only on a small, select group of people–no matter how much I love those people. And I can’t fathom God giving me gifts and passions and dreams with the intention that I limit the use of those to the lives of three people. There is a huge, hurting world out there and mothers–with our heightened compassion, our deepened sense of justice, our ever-growing longing for a better world–are uniquely qualified to get out there and work toward bringing about the kingdom of God. I could go on and on about mothers who have changed the world, but we’ll save that for another post.

4) It’s a dangerous, damaging way to think about motherhood. If we hold motherhood up as a divine calling, we imply that it is something a woman is chosen for, that she is selected by God to do. So what about those women who long to be “chosen” for motherhood and aren’t? What message does it send to childless women when we tell them that God only chooses some women for this special calling? I’ll tell you what that message is: it’s that they are the problem, that they are unworthy of the call. I know that’s what they hear because my friends who have battled infertility or who are single and long for families tell me that’s what they hear.We can encourage and support  and value motherhood without turning it into something that creates pain in the lives of our sisters.

5) It ignores dads. I find it ironic that the same people who hold up motherhood as a calling rarely talk about fatherhood as a calling. If anyone has a link to a book, an article, an anything that discusses fatherhood as a calling, please link to it in the comments because I would love to be wrong about this. Ironically, it also seems to me that the people who believe motherhood is a calling often hold to a view of the man as the spiritual head of the family as well. In that case, why isn’t the dad the one staying home with the kids? If he’s the head, why is he the one leaving for 40 hours a week? The absence of a father in a child’s life creates a whole host of issues that are far more damaging to a child than having a mother who has a job.

6) Add all of those together and you have faulty theology. Dave is the father of 11 children and I imagine he and his wife are wonderful parents. But the problem with what Dave is saying is something that sits at the core of the Revolution: Every family is different, every mom is different. So when someone suggests that what they have and experience is the best way–and the only real Christian way–to parent or think about the family, they take away the possibility that God might have a different path for other families.

Those of us who feel perfectly content (or not so much content as done) with the one or three or six children have don’t believe we are somehow being selfish or not following God’s leading. It’s possible that we have made those decisions with heartfelt prayer and felt God’s clear leading. Dave and his wonderful, extraordinary wife have chosen a life that is simply not for everyone. They have been blessed with a big, happy family and that’s clearly where they have felt God leading them. But other families are led down different paths. And thank God. Because the world needs Christian people in every vocation, in every walk of life. We need men and women who focus on the world around them and not only on their own homes. That’s the divine calling–to go into the world and make disciples of all nations.

Caryn: Preach it, Sister!

I’m so glad you started this topic. Because yesterday—in a comment back to Dave (and I wasn’t bashing you, buddy. I really appreciate your sense of humor. My toes do feel better!)—I called motherhood a “calling.”

But ever since I wrote that, I’ve wondered if I really believe it to be true. And I think I’m with you, Carla–for the reasons you write. You know the Shema and all (Props to Fuller Theological Seminary in beautiful Pasadena, Calif. They taught you good!).

I do feel called to raise my particular kids. I know God gave me the amazing little creatures to raise—and am eternally grateful (and exhausted) for it. But I have never felt lead to motherhood in a divine sort of way. (For what it’s worth, I do feel lead—divinely so—with the Mommy Revolution. This is nothing if not a God-thing, people. You don’t even know….)

However, I believe some women do feel called to motherhood. I’m thinking right now of a woman I know who without a doubt knew she was meant to be a mother and felt lead to adopt. Can I say this isn’t a divine calling? I don’t think so.  

But it all comes back to this: Whether or not we have kids, whether or not we are “gifted” in the 1950ish sense of motherhood, whether or not we use birth control, whether or not we would cry or celebrate upon learning we were pregnant, a woman’s “proper focus” is on God, not family. I think you’re right, Carla, that a focus on the family (ahem) is idolatrous. I say, Focus on Jesus. (You can start humming “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” for better effect. Love that song!)

Even Dave says God should be our number one. And that means, we look to him (God, not Dave) and to how he made us and to how he wants us to love and raise our kids and how we wants us to use our gifts and our lives. And, as Carla wrote, how he wants us to make disciples of all nations. 

Sounds like that’s what Dave and his big wonderful family are doing.  And that’s what we should too. I’m just glad we can make disciples without literally making them. If you catch my drift…

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The Revolutionary Manifesto

For the three of you who read our pre-Christmas post I will be repeating myself here, but for the rest of you who apparently found celebrating with family, eagerly anticipating the birth of Christ to be more important than The Mommy Revolution, this’ll be some fun news.

This Tuesday (Jan. 13), Carla and I will be on Moody Radio’s Midday Connection at noon (CST). The Revolution has made it to Moody, people. This is big. You need to listen. You need to call in. And then you’ll need to report back to us.

But anyway, we thought in honor of our big, national Revolutionary radio debut, we really ought to officially publish the core values that the Mommy Revolution holds near and dear.

Up until this point, we’ve sort of alluded to them, but never really outlined them. Well, we outlined them many months ago at La Spiaza coffee shop in Wheaton, Illinois, while simultaneously irritating patrons because we kept switching tables as ones with better access to outlets became available. But, we’ve never made them public.

So, without further ado, here they are. What the Mommy Revolution is all about and what we believe—at least about motherhood. We want to know what you believe, too–about what it means to be a mom, about what you wish could be different, about your visions of motherhood. So please throw in some of your revolutionary ideas as well.

We believe that:

  • Both mothers and children should thrive in the parent/child relationship.
  • A women doesn’t stop having dreams when she starts raising children.
  • Women need emotional support from other women.
  • Mothers can do anything we want to, but we don’t have to do everything well.
  • There is something good to be found even in the most difficult parenting stages.
  • Motherhood is not as all-important as we think it is. We are one of the many factors that shape our children. We need to be the best moms we can be while recognizing that we are not the centers of the universe.
  • Parenting is collaborative, not competitive. None of us can—or should—do it alone.
  • Life is not all about you, but it’s not all about your kids, either.
  • Only mothers get to define what our motherhood looks like.
  • Motherhood changes who we are, but it doesn’t define who we are.
  • There is more than one way to parent well.
  • Motherhood is just part of a whole and integrated life.
  • A good mom provides food, shelter, clothing, love, support, encouragement, and all the honesty, wisdom, and kindness she can. Everything else—rides the to mall, attendance at soccer games, participation in endless rounds of Pretty Pretty Princess—is gravy.

We want to create a culture of motherhood in which:

  • Women make decisions that feel right for us and our families.
  • Good fathers are part of the parenting equation. That means they get credit for the work they do and the unique presence they have in the lives of our children. It means we stop believing they can’t parent as well as we can. Being revolutionary moms means making room for revolutionary dads. 
  • Women support each other instead of critique each other.
  • The fact that we have children doesn’t lead to assumptions about who we are or what we do.
  • Our decisions are driven by the emotional and physical well-being of every member of the family–not just the kids and not just the parents.
  • Our children are one of the many gifts we give to the world.
  • It’s okay to miss the way we lived before we had children.
  • Women are encouraged to figure out what we are passionate about and supported by our families and friends as we live out those passions.

Whatcha think? Agree? Disagree? Worried for our very souls? Please discuss.

Obama’s Mama

Caryn: Yesterday I got a press release from a Christian publisher touting a new book on the life of Barack Obama. The release detailed who wrote it, what it was about, typical fare. So typical, in fact, that it included this little line: ” [the book] explores the unlikely success story of Obama, the son of a Kenyan sheep herder and a white woman from Kansas.” 

What’s so “typical” about that? The description of Obama’s mom. (Or any mom, for that matter.) While the dad gets an interesting, question-begging description of who HE is, the mom gets to be “a white woman from Kansas.” Really? This is the best we could come up with to describe Barack Obama’s mother, a woman who raised this charismatic, intellegent, potential leader of the free world, of whom Time magazine says: “Barack Obama’s mother was at least a dozen things. S. Ann Soetoro was a teen mother who later got a Ph.D. in anthropology; a white woman from the Midwest who was more comfortable in Indonesia; a natural-born mother obsessed with her work; a romantic pragmatist…”

That’s what they had to say? But really, what more do they have to say about any of the rest of us?

Now I realize I’m just being super-sensitive here, but come on! I’m so tired of moms getting all the plain vanilla or should I say “white women from Kansas” labels. No offense to white women from Kansas. I know many. And they are all terribly interesting people. And all quite capable of raising future presidents. I don’t see what’s at all “unlikely” about that!

Can we at least TRY to give moms a bit more intrigue? Sheesh. 

Carla: Oh Caryn, I’m so proud of you for being outraged on behalf of Obama. I know it’s really his mom, but it’s a step.

On an unrelated note:

 

this makes me love Minnie Driver more than ever.
This, if you can’t tell, is actress (or maybe I should stick with “white woman from England)” Minnie Driver and her one-month-old son, Henry. This picture, one she herself posted on her myspace page, makes me love her more than I already do. She looks tired, unkempt, and totally in love with her boy. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate her showing the world that motherhood is not a photoshoot.
Caryn: You see how nice I can be, how concerned and loving, about people I never have and never will vote for? Defending his mother’s dignity? (Though, now that I’m typing this, thinking about how much I don’t like Obama’s policies, thoughts, and plans, didn’t he call his grandparents “regular white people” or something? Ugh. Now I’m disgusted again after trying to be SO NICE!)
Moving on….yes, that Minnie Driver photo is fantastic. Beautiful image of motherhood, capturing one of my favorite kind of mom-moments. And that white boy from California is darling. Little mouthie catching flies…..

Mr. Moms and the Daddy Revolution

Caryn: This is hard for me to write, in a way, because I SO love the movie Mr. Mom. I saw it when I was probably 10 or something with my grandmother, who laughed and laughed the whole time. Since my dear hard-working, hard-knock-life-sort-of-life Swedish grandmother NEVER laughed, you can see why I might love this movie. Plus, I love their house. Plus, it kicked off me wanting to work in advertising (which I did for a stint) and wear big-bowed blouses (never did. I think I wrote about this in an earlier post). Plus, it was funny.

That said, I hate “Mr. Moms” or to be more precise, I really hate the TERM “Mr. Mom.” It totally p—-es me off. Excuse my hyphens. I hate it because it implies all sorts of idiotic things:

1. That when a man cares for his kids—feeds them (LOVE that scene where Michael Keaton irons the grilled cheese!), bathes them (even with Sesame Street slippers on), and drops them off (now I’m laughing at that Mr. Mom carpool drop-off scene)—he is doing a mom’s job.

2. That a mom is simply a role—not a relationship—that can quickly swapped out by someone else doing those jobs.

Okay, so that’s just two things that I can think of right now. But, still, isn’t a “Mr. Mom” in all reality just a Good Dad? Isn’t this just as stupid as when a dad says he “babysitting” his kids? Or am I nuts? Or both?

 

Carla: You might be a little nuts, but I am still with you here. This is another one of those areas where it seems like today’s parents have inherited ideas and language that don’t relate to the way we really live. I have so many friends who parent as partners, not as two separate people with separate roles. They both do what needs doing, both arrange their work lives to fit their family life, both nurture and feed and bathe and tuck in with the same commitment to parenting well. I honestly don’t think men and women worry about this kind of stuff as much as the media or the culture or previous generations did.

That’s not to say I think men and women can or should parent in exactly the same ways. Jimmy is far more physical with our kids than I am. I am a more patient listener than he is. But he snuggles with the same delight and reads with the same enthusiasm and never blinks when there is a diaper to be changed or a meal to be made. He expects to be part of their lives and I can’t imagine what it would be like if he didn’t.

My dad has often commented that he wishes he had known how to be the kind of dad Jimmy is. My dad is a wonderful father, but he wasn’t on the floor wrestling with us or coaching our teams or climbing into our beds to read at night. Fathers of his generation just didn’t do that kind of thing. But men today not only do those things, they enjoy them. I think today’s fathers want to be more invested in their kids than their dads were in them. And that’s good news for moms.

The Mommy Revolution is all about encouraging women to live out their dreams. But I think we all know that it’s impossible to do that if we don’t have a partner who is willing to be a present, active parent. So the Mommy Revolution carries with it a need for a Daddy Revolution, one that encourages men to be the fathers they want to be.

Caryn: Totally need a Daddy Revolution. (Maybe a Grandma and Grampa one too.) Because one of the core values of the revolution is that parents are able—equipped and supported—to parent and raise kids and live lives as God intended them to, with gifts God gave them. Again, Carla, well put.