Wednesday, May 6, 2009

online meanderings: training girls

Today I pick up where I left off in my series on kids and chores. I'd like to tell you about a girl talk series on training daughters to manage a home.

You may remember my series on biblical womanhood. It was based on Carolyn Mahaney's book Feminine Appeal, where she says this about mothers and daughters:

Of all the mentoring relationships among women, none is more significant than the one between a mother and her daughter. Those of us who have been blessed with daughters have the opportunity, and indeed, the obligation to emphasize the feminine qualities of Titus 2 in our teaching repertoire.

We live in a society that emphasizes preparation and education for everything but marriage, motherhood, and homemaking. Therefore we must give this profession our highest attention when it comes to preparing our daughters for their futures.
How do you train a daughter to manage a home? Carolyn and her daughters gave their ideas in last year's girl talk series on training girls, starting with this quote in the post Homemaking school:

"The fact is, our girls have no home education. ... Those early habits, which would have made domestic care a light and easy task, have never been taught ... ; and the result is, that when cares come, as come they must, they find them misery."
The series continued with Note from a homemaker, which included these sobering words from a mother of grown children:

I see [my daughters] struggle in certain areas of homemaking and know that I could have saved them much heartache and frustration if I had done my job as a mother properly.
The next post, A daughter's heart for the home, talks about inspiring girls with a vision for homemaking in a world which devalues it.

Mom's example in the home is reassuring for mothers of toddlers because it says this isn't the time for training in homemaking! It acknowledges that it's important to teach boys to help around the home, but not to forget that we're training them for a different role to girls.

Homemaking 101 talks about the practicalities of handing on every-day skills to our daughters. I love - and am terrified by! - the idea of asking an older daughter to run the home for a few weeks. What a brilliant way to help a girl (or a boy!) realise what's involved in managing a home.

For better or for worse suggests helpfully that when you're weak in a certain area of homemaking, you ask someone else to teach you and your daughter these skills, or go to classes together (although I don't really see bow-tying as an important womanly pursuit - clearly, I'm deficient in my femininity!).

There's a great post about Homemaking books if you're interested in doing some reading with or for your daughter.

Two useful posts from other blogs are Nicole's working with kids, on how you can teach kids just by getting them involved in housework; and Heather Koerner's Study to show yourself an SAHM, on the importance of training in managing a home.

Lots of food for thought! I'll try to wrap it all up soon - God willing! - with a post on kids and chores. If you have any final suggestions or comments, I'd love to hear from you!

image is from daveparker at


Ali said...

Hi Jean,
My only issue with this material is that it seems to be assuming that both your sons and your daughters will get married. As I know only too well, that is not always the case, much as they might have liked to be a SAHM of a provider etc. And then, when it comes to living as an independent single adult, both men and women need to do very similar duties to maintain their "home" (unmarried sons will still need to wash, cook, clean, presumably take up the call to hospitality (which they are typically very bad at) etc). So at that point I get confused about how much we train women to be SAHM, and which "duties" you let boys not learn.

Jean said...

And I definitely can't spell definitely. Spelling was never my strong suit.

Jean said...

I am going to attempt to post that again with the correct spelling.

Jean said...

Hi Ali!

Yes, I agree with you, there are definitely issues with the material. I feel uncomfortable with some of what is said as well - particularly about singleness! - in Feminine Appeal and girltalk. There is definitely an unspoken assumption that all single people should be preparing for marriage: an odd assumption given 1 Cor 7!

And I agree that you will definitely train both girls and boys in most - maybe all?? - household tasks, both because if they get married men need to be able to serve and support their wives, and women to care for the home and help their husbands; and if they are single, they will need the full range of skills!!

I love the Mahaney's idea of getting a girl to manage a home for a week. The question I have is why not a boy as well? It would be wonderful preparation for either marriage or singleness! If I do this at all, I think I might get the boys to do it too.

On the other hand, there needs to be some differentiation in roles in our training. Whether this is in the chores we choose for kids to do, or whether, as Cathy suggests in some of the earlier posts on the topic, it's at the level of how we talk not at the level of what they do. But maybe it's good to have some differentiation in tasks as well.

What do you think? It's a complicated issue, and I'd love to hear any wisdom you have on it, especially as a single person!

Ali said...

Oh I am not sure I have much wisdom on the issue. I am a big supporter of biblical manhood and womanhood in terms of leadership and submission and love and respect and so on, but how much that translates into this rather comprehensive homemaking philosophy I am not so sure.

I am also not entirely convinced of the dissection of Titus 2 (ie saying that the love your husbands and children part applies to married women, but the other words in the sentence apply to all women, such that single women are also to be "busy at home"). The reality is that every single woman I know has a full-time job out of the home, whether she likes it or not. And the verse in 1 Tim 5 (I think) that says younger widows should marry so they won't be idle, and in 1 Cor 7 (or is it 6)that says that widows should marry "only in the Lord" would seem to suggest that basically the only unmarried women of the time, facing such a choice, were widows, and unmarried widows had nothing else to do, which are not really the prevailing circumstances of today.

So, yes, I still don't feel like I have nailed this one ...

(You could perhaps argue that the majority still marry in Christian circles, so that is the most likely thing to train for, but I am not so sure on how long that "majority" will hold out ... and you don't want to leave your single children floundering because they were unprepared for singleness ... It's the problem of preparing for the unknown. And then there is problem of at which point would you tell single women to switch and stop "preparing for marriage" if you use the preparing for marriage language. I like Cathy's idea of different language, because the attitude is perhaps more at the essence of it than tasks (I think it's Piper and Grudem who talk about a "posture of submission" in women - and men and women can have different "roles" in relationship without necessarily having different tasks. Anyway, very much thinking out loud as I write here. )

Ali said...

And I have just realised that there is an error in what I just said about the "posture of submission" too, because women called to submit to their husbands, not all men, so what that means for single women is also a little blurry. Now I am all muddled up again! :)

Jean said...

Thanks, Ali. I agree with what you say re Titus 2 and being "busy at home". I don't like the assumption that single women (or married women with time to spare) should devote the majority of their time and energy to the home sphere. Seems to me 1 Cor 7 says single women are free to "serve Christ" - whatever form that takes! Of course they will do this in a feminine way. But not necessarily on the home front.

On the "posture of submission" - this will still be demanded of single women in relation to the male leadership of the church, won't it? (And to male members of congregations too, of course!) It may also apply to other situations like leading mixed Bible studies - if we decide male leadership is appropriate, women will support this, as co-leaders or members. And it applies to how we speak to men / evaluate "prophecies" or teaching / etc. So I do think there is a "posture of submission" for singles, and all women, outside marriage.

Jean said...

One more question: do you think you were well prepared for singleness as a child? How would you suggest talking about this as a possible future to kids? Were you trained to manage a home / work / single life? (or is that 3 questions?)

This would make a fascinating post! (hint hint!!)

Ali said...

Hi again. Yes, I am with you on the first paragraph (but what that means for how we go about training/preparing girls I am still not so clear on ...). I’ve heard it said that women are to have a “homewards orientation”, but what that actually means for women who spend the vast majority of their time outside the home I am also not so clear on. I've also read somewhere that preparation for marriage is really just preparation for godliness, but I gather that is referring to developing characteristics such as a serving/sacrificial attitude, other-person centredness etc, rather than particular skills.

And I am with you on the posture of submission paragraph too, and that is where my thoughts were going, though I think other passages of scripture describe the way women are to behave in the church with respect to men (which in a sense does manifest itself in “tasks” ultimately doesn’t it!), but that the submission called for in Ephesians 5, which is where my thoughts went afterwards, is particularly within the marriage relationship.

Anyway, it's all very interesting ...

Ali said...

Oh, I just read the next comment. I think I might have to leave that one for tonight and come back to it :).

mattnbec said...

Yes, I have the same hesitations you both mention, Ali and Jean(ie in terms of singleness and boys need to learn the household-tasks too). I do wonder how much some of what they say is too American for our context/s at times too.

Having said that, I do think they have some great things to teach us (me) in terms of training children.

Ali said...

Hi Jean,
Apologies for the fact that I haven't been back here. I am rather buried in EQUIP stuff and other things at the moment (and have just had one of those times when I am out every night after work) but then I might give this some more thought :).

Jean said...

Not a problem, Ali, I wasn't expecting anything - only if and when you have time! :)