Monday, October 11, 2010

The burden of trying to please Man

Mariana by Marie Spartali Stillman

"So what are you going to 'do'?"

A familiar question to stay-at-home daughters in or approaching their late teens, frequently put to them by well-meaning friends and acquaintances.

I'm not good at talking, even at the best of times, and when posed by the above question, I almost invariably end up a red-faced, stuttering mess! The truth is, I know exactly what I want to "do" - have a home and a family of my own! But you can't just say that. The simple desire to be a wife and mother isn't acceptable - you also have to have some sort of a career, even if said "career" is just a farce, a pretext.


Family friend: "So you've finished school?"

Me: "Um, er, sort of. I'm still doing a bit of studying, and always reading, so I guess I'm still learning, you know, even if I have essentially finished school," *nervous laugh*.

FF: "Okay, so are you going to uni?"

Me: "Um, ah, well, not planning to at this stage. . . but there are lots of options available these days - for doing courses and uni degrees at home, by correspondence - especially with the internet, you know. . ."

FF: "Mm-hm, yeah that's true. So - have you decided what you're going to do yet?"

Me: "Um, ah, well. . ." *stutters and stammers, eventually subsiding to red-faced silence*.

A couple of hours later:

Me: Despairingly wonders what this person must think of me. Only losers stay at home with their parents after they've completed school, without going to university, or going to work, or going somewhere and doing something, right?


How do I convey to that person that I am busy, I am happy? I am learning and - I hope - contributing? I may be at home almost all the time, but I am not just sitting around at home doing nothing! I am (I pray) learning and maturing a little more everyday; and I am a contributing member of this mini-community of sorts, called a family?

But I can't seem to help it, I always find myself trying to fight back the insecurity and the doubts that gnaw at me because I am endeavouring to follow a different path than the world's way. Nearly every time someone asks "the question", I find myself battling all those doubts, all over again.

*Sighs*. . . Anyway, the whole point of this post is that last night, as I lay in bed, I was thinking about all this, and feeling terribly weighed down by it all. Then it hit me: Elise, you're worrying so much about what other people think of you! About what the world thinks of you! Stop worrying about something so stupid! God loves you and accepts you just as you are, so you don't need to worry about all this. You don't need to try to "prove" that you are mature or intelligent or an adult by going to university or pursuing a career. As long as your heart and your motives are pure in God's sight, you have nothing to worry about!

And it was amazing - I felt the weight lift right off me! I felt so free and happy.

Now if I can just keep that in mind (God loves and accepts you, who cares what the world thinks?) over the coming months and years - if I can only bear that in mind next time someone asks me "the question"!

I know quite a few of my readers are stay-at-home daughters - any hints or suggestions as to how to deal with those inevitable questions?

BTW, I am SO GRATEFUL for the internet as a means to "meet" and be friends with other young women who are in the same boat as I am - being a SAH daughter can seem a lonely path at times, it's so counter-cultural!


Marian said...

I have a similar main goal is to become a published author, which doesn't exactly sound like an ambitious or money-making goal. For a while, I felt quite awkward telling people "I'm going to write books." It sounded painfully unsophisticated, compared to other people's careers! But I reminded myself how important this was to me; so recently, when the opportunity has come up, I've spoken about it with more enthusiasm and without trying to avoid the subject. And it didn't make me feel even more awkward either. In fact, it is a huge relief to tell people what you are really going "to do", and you will gain even more confidence each time you talk about it.

Theresa said...

I was in the same situation a few years back. I took ages to figure out what I wanted to do with my life (apart from glorifying God etc.), so long in fact that I wasn't doing anything apart from sitting at home for almost two years.
When I was asked "the question" I would answer super honestly, thus taking the person off guard. "I'm not doing anything," I would say, "I'm just bumming around at home having fun. It's great!"

I thought lots about the whole thing and also learned some things too, if my sister was in the same situation as you, this is what I'd tell her:
1) Being a Christian means that God should be no.1 in your life. Career, family and self comes second. Pick a career (or should I say job instead?) that will either enable you to serve God more or will not take the no.1 spot in your life.

2)You're a girl, of course you want to get married and have kids. Try to pick a job that you will be able to a)drop to have a family, b)keep doing part-time while being a Mum if you need the money, c)support you through life if you don't end up getting married.

3) Do something that you enjoy. Who cares if you like retail and dealing with people? You don't need to go to university, it's not that amazing. Plus, there is no hurry! It's great being a girl.

4) Don't hesitate to ask for help and advice. Chat to your parents/wise christian people about it. Sometimes it's hard for us to see exactly what we are like and should/shouldn't do.

Sorry about the rant! Hope you come up with an awesome answer to "the question" soon!

Theresa said...

- Oh wait, don't get me wrong! I think it's totally ok to help out with your family and stay at home :) But when you're older (ahem.... 20something) you might want to do something else. :)

Anonymous said...

I understand what you mean, though I have a bit of the opposite problem myself! Strangely, I don't have a huge desire to get married and have children. My mom has questioned me why being a wife and mother isn't a dream of mine. She even asked if I saw something in her and my dad's relationship that would make me opposed to the idea of marriage!

It's just that I'm not sure marriage is what God has for me...If He makes me fall in love with a man, that's wonderful, but at this point, I'm more interested in being involved in music ministry. I get the blank stare from people on this one too, because they think music is something hard to break into.

The Editrix said...

Marian - thanks for that! Yes, I think I'll just try to be more blunt and forthright!

Theresa - thanks for your advice and encouragement! Yeah, I'm not saying that I'm never going to get a job or go to uni. . . but I'm really happy where I am right now, and I think this is where God wants me to be at the moment! Especially while my younger brothers and sisters are all still so young - I'm just loving being at home! :-) But if God opens other doors later on, then great! Like you said, in a few years time. . . when I'm a bit older, and as my siblings all start to grow up too. . .

But right now, I'm enjoying being at home, and the pressure from the world to get out and go to uni and go after a career just because I'm now 18 is really getting to me!! Hence this post. :)

Emm - I was just thinking, wouldn't it be ironic if you're the one who ends up falling in love, getting married and having a family, and I end up being single all my life! Life seems to work that way sometimes, LOL!

I love ministering through music, too - I play guitar and keyboard at church most weeks, and love it. :-)

I pray your music ministry will be a great blessing to many people. :)

Avonlea_dreamer said...

Elise I can say quite honestly I am in the exact same boat! I hate getting "The question" and I get it all the time. Especially when Im NOT expecting it! How do you tell people you don't want to go to colledge? I'm not sure of the answer as of yet but I am TRULY glad to know I'm not alone!

Aliisa said...

Hi Elise,

I've been a "lurker" for quite a while now, but as this is a topic that has been an issue with me for a while I thought I'd chime in!

I remember especially right when I graduated and EVERYONE was asking "so, now what are you going to do". I'd tell them "well,my dream is to become a wife and a mother,but for the time being I spend a lot of time helping out at home" (I'm the oldest of 11) and they automatically think I just lay around and watch tv :) I got a lot of pressure to go to college or at least get a job of some kind. I did have a couple babysitting jobs and worked part-time for a friend, but that wasn't a "real job" :)
For a little while I was planning on teaching piano and so was taking a course in learning how to do that and it was SO nice to tell people "I'm planning on teaching piano lessons" because that sounded like a "good" thing to do - of course that was in man's eyes, not God's :)
Then I came to realize that by not telling people what I really wanted to do, I wasn't being honest. So once I started to tell people "I just want to be a wife and a mother" (even though it was really hard sometimes!) more often than not they would say something to the effect of how wonderful that is that there are girls nowadays who don't want to go out and get a big job, but want to raise a good family. Then I was shocked!! Some people actually do appreciate it when girls want to be just that - girls - and want to embrace our femininity and our God-given role, so to speak!

On a side note, I find your response to Emm's comment quite funny, because that's the way I always saw it! The girls who either didn't care if they got married until 25, or didn't care if they got married at got married really young! And the girls who wanted to get married young were for sure 25 before they got married :)
But now I'm not so sure, because as long as I can remember I've wanted to get married when I was 18 and have a family right away. So then I thought I wouldn't get married till I was really old. Right now I'm in a Courtship with a WONDERFUL young man and will probably be married by Spring, which will be shortly after I turn 21 so I guess that theory is out the window :)

Wow, this turned out much longer than I thought! I hope it made sense, and wasn't terribly confusing. I just wanted to chime in with my 2 cents as this is something I've had an issue with too.

Once again, I've really enjoyed reading your blog and will probably be commenting more often.

God Bless!

Staci said...

This is from me and not any one great with insights into the human psyche, slash condition.

1. Follow what God has told you do to and even if you don't know what that is staying where you are is not a sin! No matter what other people may imply or think.

2. If you have a family that loves you and supports you in whatever you decided to do even if that means staying at home then I say STAY AT HOME! To have them is to be treasured!

3. Stop looking for that special someone. God has him in mind and it may not be the time to meet him yet. OR it may not be the time to see him yet if he is all ready in your life. I have known some friends not to notice the man of their dreams until the blinders are lifted off of their eyes by God and they are astonished to discover he was right there in front of them all along! It happens more than you think it would!

4. Instead of dreading the question,"What are you going to do?" Honestly say what you want to do and what God has shown you to do for now. Then ask the person who asked you what they did, this gets them talking about themselves. It also gets the attention off of you! Plus you might learn some thing about them or even much better might learn some wisdom that God wants to share with you! God gives us many insights when we are not looking.

God has a plan for you! Cherish it! God loves you where ever you are at! Isn't He wonderful?!

trustintheLord said...

AWESOME post Elise!!! I hate it when people ask me what I want to do! I always sound so vague and disjointed. and the two things that I'm sort of thinking about the most are so different from each other it just sounds stupid lol.

what you said about what people think of you, so true!! I'm still smiling :P and yes God loves you the way you are and I think you're pretty amazing too :) see you on Saturday


Anonymous said...

As long as you and your parents are happy with your choice, then I think it's fine. If you feel you need to move on, then you should go for it, but if at the moment you feel you are making progress in life as you are, then you should go for that, too!
Besides, anyone who judges you for making such a choice is probably not worth having their opinion cared for.
I have a similar problem - my passion is writing, and someday I would like to be a novelist. But I realise that eventually I will have to forge a 'proper' (at least, more stable, reliable and determined) career, and the writing will come as something if I have time for in the future.
But while I know that I do want to do something, what that something is completely escapes me! So when people ask me, I just have to admit I don't know, but add 'I like writing, and reading though!' This doesn't particularly impress them, but luckily it's usually just my inquisitive grandma asking, so I know her interest and concern is well meant! :)


The Editrix said...

Avonlea Dreamer - I am TRULY glad to know I'm not alone!

So am I!!

Aliisa - Then I was shocked!! Some people actually do appreciate it when girls want to be just that - girls - and want to embrace our femininity and our God-given role, so to speak!

That's lovely! And a real encouragement to me to try to be more brave and confident, and really be more honest and forthright with people.

In fact, all that you shared was an encouragement! :-) Thanks so much for sharing your story. BTW I had a quick peek at your family's blog - your siblings are the cutest!

Oh, and do comment more often! :-)

The Editrix said...

Staci - 2. If you have a family that loves you and supports you in whatever you decided to do even if that means staying at home then I say STAY AT HOME! To have them is to be treasured!

Oh, yes! I know I am so tremendously blessed to have parents who are supporting me in this.

4. Instead of dreading the question,"What are you going to do?" Honestly say what you want to do and what God has shown you to do for now. Then ask the person who asked you what they did, this gets them talking about themselves. It also gets the attention off of you!

Great advice! Thank you!

God has a plan for you! Cherish it! God loves you where ever you are at! Isn't He wonderful?!

Yes! Amen!

Thank you for everything in your comment, Staci - and thank you for taking the time to share it with me, I really appreciate it. : )

The Editrix said...

TrustintheLord - aww, thanks! : ) See you on Saturday!

Abby, thanks so much for your comment and encouraging words! Hehe, that's sometimes one of my answers, too - "Well, I have a passion for reading and writing - that might lead to somewhere. . ." People don't always seem too impressed by that, LOL.

Anonymous said...

Hi everyone i know this is kind of off topic but I’m so excited i had to shear this with someone.
Next April there is going to be a Jane Austen festival in Canberra, Early Bird tickets go on sale on Sat October 30th but there are only 50. If you haven't heard of it before, it is a weekend (Fri night to Sun evening) of fun, dancing, eating, sewing and laughs. You go dressed up in Regency garb and play dress ups all weekend, its lots of fun. Check out the website for more info, for prices go to the registration tab.
I went to a couple of things with my mum and sister last time and we had lots of fun.
We’ll be going to all of it this time.

Elisabeth said...

I know exactly what you're talking about. When I graduated from (homeschool) high school, I wrote a letter as part of the invitations to my graduation party explaining some of the reasons why I wasn't choosing the college route - because I knew otherwise I'd spend the whole day trying hard to answer that same question from everybody!

There is a lot of pressure on girls in general these days, I think, to have a career or even just to go to college, even if they have no idea why they're going - it's just the thing to do. Sometimes it feels like if you don't choose that path you're looked down upon, especially by other women. Even if you're firmly convinced you're doing the right thing, it gets to you! Believe me, I've done my fair share of stammering in my time. I hope to get married and have a family, and like several other people who've commented I'm working on being a published author. While I'm working and waiting for both I can't think of any place I'd rather be than here at home. Right now I'm very happy where I am and I've realized that I shouldn't feel pressured to conform or make excuses for what I'm doing (or not doing). I find I'm just not worrying about it any more.

Jamie said...

Alright, this is such a great topic to discuss! And I want to say right off the bat that I completely agree with Staci.

We, as stay-at-home girls need to try to take these chances of sharing the Gospel whenever we can. We need to be lite candles on top of bushels. We need to be able to shine to the world that we are following the path of Christ by staying at home and doing what he asks us. We need to remember that we are SERVANTS! We must serve first Christ and then our family and friends....ourselves must be last. God can do so much with us when we leave off our own dreams and take His. I completely agree with Aliisa; I've met people who are SO refreshed when they met girls like us who are simply trying to serve the Lord.

This is for Avonlea Dreamer: (great name, by the way!)

You asked how do you tell people you don't want to go to college. I've been in two other situations when people have asked, "Are you going to college?"---don't worry! I've been there! I think my heart starts racing twice as fast when that question comes up. But my mom gave me several things I can use to show why I don't need to go to college. I thought I'd share them.

1. The greatest calling in life for woman is to be a helpmeet to one man and raise children. Who ever said you need a college to degree to do that? Certianly not the Bible.

2. Colleges do not teach things that are spiritually healthy. They are defiling, and it is much safer to stay at home where you have your parents to give you their wisdom and guidance.

3. College is EXPENSIVE! I know grown people who are still trying to pay off their college loans! The money can go to something better---maybe it can help you when you do get married. Or it can go to providing the family that loves you.

4. College is not the only way for gaining information. The internet, when used properly with mature guidance, can give so much information FREE! You can gain information that way; but we need to remember that true knowledge and wisdom is found in God and His Word.

I'll never forget when I fell into a conversation about college this past summer. I was surrounded by at least five other girls--my age, older and all strangers!---all confused and surprised when I announced, "I'm not going to college". (they were already discussing it, mind you! I didn't bring it up!). They all started asking questions; "why not?" "What's wrong with college?" "I'm going to college" "Isn't college a good thing?". I began giving the above reasons. I was SO nervous! I think if I hadn't been sitting down, I probably would have been shaking. (And what was worse is that I had about four teenage boys silently staring at me while the girls clobbered me with questions. That was scary!) But I managed to state my reasons. When I think about it now, much of what the girls said back was actually surprising. They were genuinely surprised by my reasons. One girl, who was maybe 3 years my senior, started to DEFEND why she was going to college! She didn't say any of my reasons were wrong or weird... she just started to explain why she was going to college. It was very interesting.

I hope my insights were helpful and not boring. We all need to keep our focus on God and His Word...He'll take care of everything else....

A sister in Christ,
Jamie, age 16

Tayler said...

I commented on your blog a long while back to introduce myself, and *blushes* I've been reading in silence ever since (I guess that I've been too busy being a SAH daughter or something like that.... it couldn't really be laziness, right?). :-) Anyway, I just wanted to come out of hiding to let you know that I have the exact same problem. It is so encouraging to know that I'm not the only one who faces this. :-)

It seems like every college related conversation I've had ends with me thinking, "I know my reasons... I just can't seem to get them out of my mouth. After all, being a godly woman (and hopefully wife and mother someday) has been my greatest aspiration for as long as I can remember. Why is something that is so important to me, that difficult to explain?"

Lately I've realized that pride and the fear of man are the cause of my inability to share.

Having graduated this past spring, I faced this question over and over. I struggled with pride when I realized that some people were probably thinking that I wasn't smart enough (even after all these years of saying that great test scores don't mean a thing without the Lord). Imagining "lazy" flash through people's minds when they heard that I was planning to stay at home with my family was humiliating. I got frustrated when, after doing my best to explain why I was foregoing the college experience, one person turned around and announced that I must just be scared to go out into "the real world" (poor sheltered homeschooler that I am :-).

My response needs to be honest and articulated without sounding ashamed or unsure of this "wierd" decision. :-) My job as an embassador for Christ should definitely come before my selfish pride... and any longing for cultural normality is just foolishness in the first place. :-)

I'll be praying that you do better at answering this question than I have in the past. I still have the chance to redeem myself though, since "the question" seem to follow me where ever I go. :-)

Your sister in Christ,

Jamie said...

Here is a list my mom helped me make as things to remember to mention when explaining why I (or anybody really) shouldn't go to college.

1. College is spiritually unhealthy. They are defiling. It is safer and healthier for you if you stay home under the protection of your parents.

2. Woman's Biblical call is to be the helpmeet to one man and raise Godly children. Who said you need a college degree to do that? Certainly not the Bible.

3. College is EXPENSIVE! I mean, seriously! I personally know grownups who haven't paid their college debts yet! The money can go to more worthwhile things.

4. Honestly, there is so much information on the internet you can get. And it's free!

5. True knowledge and wisdom is found in God and His Word.

And trust me, I've been in the 'oh, no! What am I going to do?' situation. It's scary! But we just need to trust God.....

A sister in Christ,
Jamie, 16

Jamie said...

Whoops, I didn't mean to comment computer told me my first comment was too long the first time! Lol

Also, I've been meaning to suggest; Elise, I sorta miss the 'caption contest' thing you were doing; and the pictures had been interesting. Maybe you could still do Caption Contests, but only like once a month or something....just an idea! :D

A sister in Christ,
Jamie, 16

Anonymous said...

Dear Elise :)
I had a long comment written out but... when I tried to publish the internet failed and it was lost. :P The long and short of it is, though, I struggle with the same thing... and it's hard to explain to people that I want to embrace the beauty and the joy and the vigor of life and learning... People often don't think that that can come from the home, but it can. :) It just takes faith and trust in God to present the vision - "I want to get married and raise strong, healthy, intelligent children and cook good food... basically be a good wife and mother" - to an unbelieving world. Yet... the vision brings such joy with it.

There was a lot more that I said, but maybe after all it was just a ramble :) Thanks so much for your post - I love reading your blog. :)
In Christ,
~Ruby Jean

Megan Hanvey said...

I have had the "issue" ever since I graduated. Here is the funny thing when I was prep. for said graduation I thought: "Okay now at LEAST people will STOP asking me about school, and what I am doing!". HA! I tend to fumble my words, and say I decided not to go to collage, but I never seem to stand tall and say. "It completely goes against my belief to go to collage." *sighs*

Anonymous said...

It has been such an encouragment to hear the stories of other girls who want just to be a wife, mother, and homemaker. I come from liberal, feminist California where even Christians often look down on that desire.
Like many of you were saying, though, it does no good to be ashamed of that deisre. That simply makes people look down on you even more. I have found that if I show the enthusiasm that God has given me for this calling, sometimes people will see it as a good thing.
I ask them, "What could be more important than raising up the future generation to be Godly, wise people who will seek to futher the kingdom of the Lord?" Christians cannot deny the importance of that task, especially since we talk so much about the moral decline of America and raising up the next generation of the church.
So be bold and enthusiastic about this desire that God has placed on your heart. At least you will know that you are pleasing the One who really matters by showing excitement for His calling on your life.

Elaine said...

I love your blog! I found it while searching for knitting patterns inspired by Pride and Prejudice. Kind of odd, I know, but I am so glad to have found you!