got me a college girl

in celebration of formal education in the life of the Christian girl

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

how much housewifery training does a woman need? (mollie)

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?



  • At 9:19 AM, Blogger prairie girl said…

    "they live vicarously through another woman's brillo and besom."

    Well, this often happens to me regarding Martha Stewart. And it probably IS a good thing!

    Mollie, this is a brillant post.
    I have every confidence that you were prepared to run our household at young age and I am glad that your horizons were broadened through formal education. YOu are correct is asking why this has to be either/or!

    We are all reaping said benefits...we've got us a college girl!

  • At 12:16 PM, Blogger Mrs. Zoid said…

    I've been wondering the same thing. I learned enough to run a household when I lived at home through high school. And I think I learned even more through being giving personal responsibility at an early age (like having my own checkbook and job at age 15.)

  • At 12:21 PM, Blogger Light said…

    Your last paragraph nailed it, Mollie. It's all about control. It's all about keeping women in their place, period. It's all about the fear that if women go to college, the intellectual challenge and stimulation will only make them want more. "You can't keep 'em down on the farm, once they've seen Par-ee" goes the old saying, and I believe that's truly what's at stake here. By golly, if women go to college, they might actually be equipped to fulfill the cultural mandate given them in Genesis 1, to have dominion over the earth!

  • At 5:08 PM, Blogger TulipGirl said…

    Good points. Even had a had a homemaking apprenticeship, I think it would have taken awhile to learn to juggle the important things in my own home, with my own husband and children. Because as you pointed out, there is a difference between serving and ministering and learning with another family--and doing it with your own family.

  • At 6:51 PM, Blogger Bowden McElroy said…

    I found this post via a link from TulipGirl. Good thoughts. But, and maybe I'm ignorant or just running in different circles, is this really an issue? Are there parents/pastors saying girls don't need college?

    I've NEVER said that as a pastor. And certainly not as the father of three daughters. Nor, am I aware of any of my friends/colleagues saying this.

    I don't disbelieve you. I'm just incredibly surprised.

  • At 3:32 AM, Blogger prairie girl said…


    Your comment made my day! I am so happy that this is such a foreign concept to you but, sadly to say, it is a growing phenomena, especially among the hyper-patriarchy circles.

    Doug Phillips of Vision has emphasized this concept in the past few years and has recently published a book by two sisters, ages 17 and 19, entitle So Much More. The basic premise is that girls cannot be under their father's authority if not in the home and that any ministry a wife or daughter has is really an extension of the father's ministry.
    Further, girls are to prepare to be wives and mothers so college is a waster of time and money for women.

    That's it in a nutshell.

  • At 3:36 AM, Blogger michele said…

    Wow, I didn't know this was going on. Did you find this on the Internet? Are there any links?

    I was really saddened by this post when I thought of these poor girls who desire to be submissive being stuck as unpaid help (I would assume unpaid). What if they felt the call of career and college but could not fulfill it because they believe it is unbiblical to go against their father (because it has been drilled in them since birth no doubt). Is it the church's attention to create Stepford wives? That is what the world will think when they read things like this.

    And I agree, as well that this really is a control issue. Very good analysis.

  • At 6:49 AM, Blogger greenemama said…

    having daughters stay home from college to hone their homemaking skills is more common than one would think. you can read various articles, starting here, and then working your way through the rest of the articles on the site.

    another site has an entire file of articles she's written regarding the negative influences that the formal education of women has on christian women, particularly on women who were homeschooled through high-school and, having gone to college, have shunned the roles of wives and mothers in pursuit of careers.

    the same blog also links to a listing of the "tenets of Biblical patriarchy" so it's clear where she is coming from regarding the roles of men and women.

  • At 7:54 AM, Blogger michele said…

    Light, do you think it might also be fear of feminism? They see what it has done to society and they are overreacting against it.

    Also, I was thinking that their being entrenched in their position might be a sign of pride and arrogance. They won't listen to other opinions because they are the pastors and we are just women. They can't listen to us because if they do then they would be getting instruction from a woman and you can't have that! They have to pat us on the head and send us on our way so that they can be the body of Christ for us.

    I wonder if the priesthood of all believers has really lost its meaning?

  • At 9:28 AM, Blogger Joanna said…

    Interesting thoughts! I'm writing a series of articles on this subject, presenting the major arguments on both sides. I'm planning to incorporate some of the material from this blog into my articles. In reading your post, I have a couple questions. The article I am writing this week is on the arguments that it is fine for a girl to pursue college and a career. I will likely include some of the points you made in this post, but I would be itnerested to hear your thoughts on a couple of questions I thought of.
    First, you asked why a single girl should continue caring for a household after she has already mastered the skills needed. When a women is married, she will keep house year after year, even when she knows all the skills full well. So why is it wrong for a woman to do this before marriage and family? Just because she knows how to do the work doesn't mean it is a waste of time.
    I think most of us would agree that Scripture primarily calls women to be "keepers at home". For example, Psalm 128 speaks of the blessed man having his wife in his home. After Adam and Eve fall, Eve's curse is that she will suffer pain in childbirth, will be ruled by her husband, etc. She is not told that she will struggle in raising food, etc. as Adam will. Adam will need to work in providing for himself and his family by growing crops, rasing animals, and so forth. It is not said that Eve will do this. So if we agree that primarily (at least while she has children) a woman should be in the home, by should she not be there before she marries and has children? Does Scripture say that an unmarried woman is exempt from the usual calling of women to be "keepers at home"?
    Finally, in your post you suggested that rather than working in the home, a young woman should do what single people her age usually do. Just because single woman in this culture usually go to college and get a job doesn't make it right. Many single women today are doing many shameful things. The "usual" for young, single women changes as we look at different cultures and times in history. So, why would you say that the "usual" in our modern culture is right for single women?
    Thanks for your time in considering these things. Your blog has been useful for me to use in researching this topic, and I'm planning to use some of it in writing this article. Thanks again!

  • At 10:30 AM, Blogger Jeannette said…

    Good post. I have visited this site occasionally since its inception. The "all girls left behind" phenonmenon is unfamiliar to me, but very plausible, given what I know about x and y.

    Something I thought of, though. I went to a Christian college, which I loved, and one of the frustrating things there among some of the beloved of my gender was the sentiment that they were getting a college education, often as education majors, for the sole purpose of getting married and homeschooling their kids. (Christian colleges are a great place to meet Christian men. *newsflash*)

    So it's not quite the phenomenon you describe, that is, apprenticeship to a home sans college. But, in a sense, it is similar but on a different stage: single-minded focus on preparing for the one thing women should be doing in life, but the "appreticeship" is in a nice, safe Christian college. (Consequently, sometimes--not always, and I hate to make such a generalization--it would really drag a class down, because they just weren't interested beyond "can I teach that to my kid at home.")

    Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad thing, to have this as an aspect of motivating factors to be in college. But to be the sole motivation? I get nervous when people think they have God's calling for their lives figured out. Because, what happens when that doesn't work out? What if these women don't find a guy and have kids? Did they somehow miss God's calling?

    Sorry, this is getting rambly. My point--convoluted and not really developed as it is--is that going to college with the wrong motivations perhaps isn't the answer, either. An attitude towards education has broader, less tangible aspects.

  • At 12:53 PM, Blogger Light said…

    Joanna said, 'I think most of us would agree that Scripture primarily calls women to be "keepers at home'"

    Perhaps I'm in the minority, but I do not believe that is what scripture says. Being a keeper at home - that is, managing one's household well - is only one of the responsibilities given to women. In Genesis, God made both man and woman in his image and commanded them both to have dominion over the earth. It would make no sense for God to give women dominion over the earth alongside men and then suddenly limit them, 2000 years later in the NT, to simply the home sphere. Simply seeing how wondrously women are created, and how many varied talents they have, many of which cannot be fully utilized in the home, bespeaks to this point. Homemaking is a wonderful and noble thing. In our culture today, for many of us, that works out to being simply one season of our life. I was a homemaker for over 10 years, raising four children. Now I am self-employed. I can say without a doubt that I have had far more impact on the world as a witness to Christ in my workaday life than I ever did as a SAHM.
    Finally, God calls us to worship him not only with our heart and soul, but also with our mind. We must nourish and exercise the gift of intellect that God has given us; college in today's culture is an excellent way to do that.

  • At 1:24 PM, Blogger Dochas said…

    I was really offended by this post. You are dissing how some people feel about being keepers at home (and, Light, I believe I already commented on why college has little to do with subduing the earth as opposed to being a housewife so I'd appreciate your take on my comment several posts back) simply because you disagree. You probably didn't mean it that way, but that's how it came out. Honestly, if I had no other knowledge of how christian women view going to college you would have turned me against the entire idea with this one post. I just felt it to be incredibly arrogant and jugdmental of those of us who aren't gifted with quick learning in how to run a house. Now yall are probably offended with me, and I'm sorry about that, but I honestly felt that it needed to be said. I'm planning to go to college myself so I'm not against yall but I am against the sort of criticism of another viewpoint which this post displayed.

  • At 1:34 PM, Blogger kristen said…

    You are misunderstanding us about the purpose of college, methinks. I'll try to write a post about it later tonight but I have two very small children (8 weeks and 19 months) to care for.

  • At 1:54 PM, Blogger greenemama said…

    dochas: how was i "dissing how some people feel about being keepers at home?" i'm a full time housewife myself and certainly value (or i certainly wouldn't be doing it) being a "keeper at home."

    my questions are honest (albeit straighforward). i do not remotely understand the importance of apprenticing to be a homemaker for years on end. after a woman knows how to keep house and work with children, what is the purpose of continuing to do so with another woman's family where it is another woman's responsibility to get the job done? there are other things in life to experience and learn that are extremely difficult to do with a family and home-keeping life.

    i'm sorry you were offended. i value homemaking, i value my husband, my children, and my home, as well as the ability to stay at home and "keep" them. if i am blessed with a daughter i will not expect her to do *my* work in the season of her life in which she has the freedom to do and experience and learn other things.

    I just felt it to be incredibly arrogant and jugdmental of those of us who aren't gifted with quick learning in how to run a house.

    the question was "how long should this take?" i give it a year, would you give it five? how long do you think it should take to learn how to run a household? this is the question, heck, it's the title of the post. i specifically said that
    i was not against such apprenticeships, but that when they were over, what was the next step?

    and, on the same subject, does it matter how long it takes to run someone else's household when the household the woman is given with her husband and children will be completely different? if a woman spends five years learning how to manage a home with five children in it, is she prepared for managing her own home when she discovers she is barren? it seems that a lengthy stint as a homemaking apprentice is unnecessary once the basics are learned and this is why i question it.

    was i "criticizing the other viewpoint?" perhaps. personally, i think it was pretty clear that i was questioning the other viewpoint. whether you care for my writing style or not is another matter. :)

  • At 2:10 PM, Blogger Light said…

    Dochas said, "Light, I believe I already commented on why college has little to do with subduing the earth as opposed to being a housewife so I'd appreciate your take on my comment several posts back"

    Dochas, I can't find that post. Can you point me to it? :)

  • At 3:04 PM, Blogger Elizabeth said…

    I am a bit puzzled over the whole idea of "apprenticing" as a homemaker as an end to itself. I personally feel that both young women & men should learn basic homemaking skills in the context of their home environment growing up, and that whatever direction their path leads after that they will continue to "hone" those skills. I know in college, living in both a dorm and with a roommate in an apartment, I continued to develope my homemaking skills by decorating, cleaning, laundering, shopping and cooking for myself and friends, reading, etc. I was pursuing a higher education but I was *still* improving my homemaking skills.

    I think it is a talent and a learned skill to be able to make your own surroundings, whether they be a small rented room or a large home, warm, clean and hospitable. Other skills I use in my homemaking include time-management and budgeting, all of which I was practicing before my official "housewife" stage of life began. Granted, I have made great strides in my skills and abilities and still want to improve in many areas, but I do not see how a concentrated "apprenticeship" would have benefitted me more than continuing school while taking care of my living space and needs.

    It does not have to be an either/or choice. As matter of fact, reading, learning about, and practicing various aspects of homemaking was a huge form of "stress-relief" for me as a student. Now, enjoying good books and thinking on topics beyond homemaking serves a similar purpose. I think both aspects of my personal experience have greatly enhanced the other.

    Sorry if this post is a bit disjointed- I'm expecting my toddler to wake up any moment now!

  • At 4:11 PM, Blogger Amanda said…

    I agree with many of the other commenters in that I learned about half of my homemaking skills as a child and I learned the other half once I moved into the dorms at college. I think you hit it on the head when you said that they were attempting to live in another "season". I think that life builds upon itself, and the only reason that I could see for women being discouraged from attaining an education is because someone is trying to control them.

  • At 3:45 AM, Blogger prairie girl said…


    There as a homeschooling principle that I learned about 20 years ago from Inge Cannon, which I think applies here. I attended a workshop where she explained how you count education hours when you are homeschooling. Some people have the idea that everything can be counted… know, “hey, kids, the street sweeper is coming by, let’s watch, I can count the hours for civics class.”…that sort of mentality. Inge said that the guideline she encouraged us to follow is that as you are learning a skill, you count the hours. Doing things routinely that perfect that skill, wanting to seek a specific goal, such as practicing the piano, would also count. But performing duties that will be done forever and a day and counting them all as school hours is not honest. She said that cooking hours can count if you are preparing a new recipe or learning a new skill, such as using a food processor. But the routine of housework should not be counted as they would not be counted in a home economics setting to acquire state required Carnegie units.

    How does this apply to this situation? I think that, yes, we homemakers are continually seeking to improve our skills by trying new recipes or learning and using a new sewing technique. But once you can basically run a household, you are ready to run your own household. There will always be new ways to improve something…acquiring a food processor or electric grinder when you didn’t have one before and learning to use it to its full potential….but once you have learned to run a household you know how to do it!

    If someone chooses to have a “homemaking apprenticeship” then I think these principles are even more important. First of all, as has been stated here several times, an apprenticeship requires a “master” doing the teaching. In homemaking, I believe this would mean an older woman, a genuinely older woman, who has raised children to maturity, who has tested her child training methods in the “real world” as they say.
    It would also require specific goals to be accomplished, a check list of skills that have been mastered. I would even insist that a genuine apprenticeship require a syllabus, a list of required reading and evidence of the mastery of certain things. If I were designing a homemaking apprenticeship, for example, I would include must-read books like Clay Clarkson’s Heartfelt Discipline and Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. I would assign research projects such as designing, on paper, an efficient kitchen plan or growing herbs and annuals under grow lights in the spring to be planted in a garden in the summer. I would arrange field trips to local nurseries and have my “trainee” prepare questions ahead of time to ask a field expert. The list is endless.

    I would not, however, place my daughter in someone else’s home as a mother’s helper and call that an apprenticeship. That is not to say that being a mother’s helper is wrong. It can be a great benefit to the mother of many little ones. But there are some drawbacks, especially over an extended period of time. I have known too many young ladies who were put in charge of a family, either their own siblings or others, who, in later years, decided to put off marriage and family or when married didn’t want more than one or two children because they were so burned out. You see, in the process of making sure the mother of little ones didn’t burn out, the “apprentices” burned out!

    And this ties in with the question about single girls and what singles are to do with their time. None of the “college girls” would encourage using time unwisely or to a sinful end. But I think that singleness brings with it special gifts. There will never be another time in your life when you can enjoy the benefits of formal education as you will as a young adult. Perhaps you will have time later as well as life experience that will enhance that learning but your mind will not be a sharp as it is when you are younger. You will also be free of the cares of this world that befall an older person…family responsibilities, work responsibilities, the care of elderly people and children. No one believes those are bad cares…cares are not necessarily negative. But they do require your time and energy. A young person is in the season of learning as they will be in no other time of life. It really begins at birth and continues until a time when you are an adult and take on the responsibilities of a job or a family. The apostle Paul recognizes this fact when he says that those who are single are able to have other ministries that someone with a family cannot have.

    Joanna, I hope this gives you some things to think about.

    Come back with more questions and thoughts any time and good luck on that paper!

  • At 3:47 AM, Blogger prairie girl said…


    In thinking about your last paragraph regarding control issues, could it not also be that at the root of that control is also a lack of faith in God and what He wants to do with the gifts and abilites of our children? In other words, a lack of trust in the sovereighty of God to accomplish His purposes?

    Just a thought.

  • At 3:50 AM, Blogger prairie girl said…


    I think you are correct that going to college with the sole motivation being preparing to homeschool children is cutting shrot what a college education can do. And as we have talked about many, many times here, and around our dinner table as well, there are benefits for a college education that go beyond the concrete and the tangible.

    I enjoyed looking at your blog, btw. You baby is adorable!

  • At 10:51 PM, Blogger plantlover said…

    mollie -
    I have recently discovered your blog, and have really enjoyed the posts here. I found this post interesting. I agreed with most of what you said, however I felt that the last paragraph was a little harsh. From my experience, parents who wish their daughters to stay at home longer do not necessarily want to control their daughters. I believe, most of the parents I know, wish this out of a desire to protect their daughters. (not that this is an excuse, just that parents I know are not power/control freaks) I am using this in a general sense, not specifically in reference to parents who disagree with girls going to college, as I don't have family situations like that in my circle of friends.

  • At 8:35 AM, Blogger TulipGirl said…


    I would agree with you in that very often there is not a concious intent to control (drawing from my observations from within groups where what Mollie is describing is valued.)

    However, what I see it bring about is--very often--a dynamic of controlling. Control by the father (and very often the mother) of the young woman. And also, on the part of the young women, difficulty in developing decision-making skills, trouble trusting her judgement, and lack of trust in her own ability to seek the Lord and be led by the Holy Spirit.

    Not saying this is 100% true of all women within this dynamic--just the pattern of weaknesses I've seen within it. And honestly, to a limited degree experienced. (My father was protective, but didn't buy into the philosophy we are discussing. I did, to a degree--and my father, thankfully, had to nudge me more towards a healthy independence.)

  • At 1:03 PM, Blogger Light said…

    There are two very different dynamics at work here. Those who believe their daughters should stay at home and train to be housewives are also those who believe that until a woman (and sometimes even until a man) is married, that young adult is under their parent's authority. The other dynamic believes that as children mature into adulthood, they are free to follow God's calling and are no longer under their parent's authority until marriage. I do not believe the former to be scriptural; we are raising our children the latter way.

  • At 8:26 AM, Blogger Leslie said…


    As the Bride of Christ and his new creation, we are not to live under the curse.

    God's ideal is that we are a NEW CREATION. Originally in the Garden of Eden both man and woman were given the same job. The good news is that we no longer live under the curse of death and separation (from God and man) if we choose to follow Christ.

    Read N.T. Wright, Dallas Willard, John Ortberg.

  • At 11:30 AM, Blogger Leslie said…

    Let me also add to my last post that I came to this sight through Bowden McElroy's link.

    And that JoAnna, judging by her post, is an impressive young woman, a credit to homeschooling.

  • At 4:15 PM, Blogger ZoidAbsolute said…

    "submission cannot be forced, can it?"

    Not per se, but if you tell someone anything long enough, especially when they are young and view you as an authority figure, they will eventually believe it. If you attended a Christian college, I'm sure you are familiar with how many people believe what they do simply because that's what their parents told them was right, and that is dangerous no matter where it is.

    One of the main things I like to point out in these sorts of discussion is how ridiculous it is to use Genesis to say that women are designed to be inferior to men. Women were designed to be equal to men; Eve was taken from Adam's side for a reason. When woman becomes "inferior" is with the Curse. In other words, it is NOT a commandment that a woman's husband shall rule over her, it is a hindrance placed on her, just as man's hindrance is that he has to work for his food now. It is something she will now have to struggle with and fight against, as man struggles with the thorns and weeds etc. Men are expected to fight their hindrance and make their chore of providing food easier, why are women expected to simply live with theirs?

    There is one thing I do have to say in defense of the housewife-apprenticeship though. Most people commenting here have gone to college, but think back to how much more you learned in college than in all 12 years of elementary school. It irritates me at times when I think about how much more I should have learned. We are all used to having professors cramming knowledge into our heads at a fairly ridiculous rate, so learning anything this slowly seems very odd. I see this even more now that I am in grad school, since even the learning pace in college was nowhere close to what I have now. People will say that the most important thing you learn in college is how to learn, but that is not entirely correct. The most important thing you learn in college is how to learn fast. Someone who has had no more than a high school education, and perhaps even a watered-down homeschool one, would not have the training to be able to learn as quickly as most of us (note, I was homeschooled and think it is superior to public or private school as long as it's done properly, which most of the time it isn't).


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