When I published “Regrets of a Stay-At-Home Daughter,” I knew that most of the Reformed world would have limited context for the subculture that I referenced. But those who did had a lot to say, both positive (overwhelmingly) and negative (persistently).
If I get caught up in the vicious cycle of responding to every critique with 800 words, this site will be 90% response articles.
Still, I’m learning how not to respond to every critique. It’s hard to separate the healthy shrug of, “I really don’t have time to hold everyone’s hand through every single article I write” and the unhealthy hiding from opinions that challenge mine.
Hopefully, this article walks that tightrope of helpful clarification and a nice, solid boundary.
It’s hard to write about regretting a decision that many still hold dear.
People got upset because my personal story of how I stumbled into a movement felt like an affront to their purposeful decisions. How dare I insinuate that they were somehow abnormal (even though I was talking about myself); how dare I pronounce the horrid verdict of regret?
Regret doesn’t have to mean I’m walking over shards of glass so I can atone for my sins — or that I’m shaking my fist at God. When I titled my article, it meant looking back and taking stock of the things that motivated certain decisions.
We’re okay with the regrets of others if we disapprove of their decisions. But when someone says they regret something that led to a lifestyle we hold dear, it’s uncomfortable.
But, as long as it doesn’t lead to wallowing in shame (another post for another time), regret is an important part of growth and change.
Why would I want to stagnate?
I don’t. I want to keep growing. And I want to grow up.
I remember the lightbulb moment I had when I was reading the chapter on adulthood in Changes That Heal by Henry Cloud. So much of the teaching that I had imbibed about biblical womanhood was not adult womanhood at all, but perpetual girlhood.
Enter Dr. Cloud’s symptoms of the inability to become an adult:
- Inordinate need for approval
- Fear of disapproval
- Sexual struggles
- Fear of failure
- Need for permission
- “You can’t do that” syndrome (stifling creativity)
- Feelings of inferiority
- Loss of power
- No equal differences (everything is “better than” or “wrong”)
- Black-and-white thinking
- Anxiety attacks
- Parenting others
- Impulsiveness and inhibition
- Hate for authority figures
- Idealization of authority
- Idealization of childhood
No lies detected.
Girlhood vs. Womanhood
A lot of the things on this list were apparent in my understanding of biblical womanhood. I don’t think I’m alone. Even if you weren’t part of my particular subculture, you can probably relate to some of them.
We make certain aspects of womanhood non-negotiable tests of our righteousness, searching for approval from others while ironically claiming that we don’t care about approval from the world. We experience fear of disapproval from our tribe. We experience guilt when we aren’t perfectly satisfied in our molds, and fear failure when compared to other women. We need permission to do things that don’t fit the stereotype and compete with other women for the status of who’s being the godliest with their choices (because that’s really all the status that certain people will allow us). We resort to black and white thinking and judgmentalism on places where the Scripture hasn’t made hard and fast rules.
A lot of Christian women are pursuing perpetual girlhood, not full-fledged adulthood, and being fed the lie that the former is much more attractive (with husband cast as a parent) than the later (with husband cast as a partner).
In fact, one of the reasons I was urged to stay home by some was so I could practice submission before marriage. “Why would you go off and try to be independent for 4+ years when you could train to submit in the family unit?”
Maybe because submitting to my husband is nothing like being an adult in a house with my parents, who are partners and teammates with an intimate dynamic that cannot be simulated by the parent-daughter relationship.
My husband needs an ezer — not a child, but an equal. I submit to him because I have a knowing trust; not a blind one.
I am not saying that this is true of all women. Or all women who never lived on their own. Or that being a conservative homeschooler only way to fall into these traps. On the contrary, a woman climbing the corporate ladder can be just as guilty of depending on others to shape her identity as a woman who has never worked outside the home a day in her life. My therapist has told me so many times that my story happens in a lot of different contexts — so I’m not saying I’m a special snowflake.
What I am saying, though, is that I am finally growing into a real adult in my story.
As a further disclaimer, if you’d like to see my thoughts about flagship verses often cited for certain understandings of biblical womanhood, my site is littered with them. The hyperlinks in this article are a great place to start.
I adore Cloud’s list of ways to learn to be a mature adult. Here are some favorites. Cloud’s words are in bold, and my personal application follows.
- Reevaluate beliefs: Do I think that women should be [fill in the blank] because of what the Bible says? Or because of what a cultural ideal has taught me?
- Disagree with authority figures: Am I willing to talk to parents or mentors about these things and disagree with them if necessary?
- Make your own decisions: Am I living the life that I have chosen based on my understanding of God’s Word, or have I let others make choices for me?
- Practice disagreeing: Am I running from disagreements about this or am I willing to have hard conversations?
- Recognize and pursue talents: Am I cultivating the gifts God has given me, or stifling them to fit a certain mold?
- Love and appreciate people who are different: Am I threatened by women who are making different choices than I do? Is it because they are going against God’s law or mine?
I’m learning to do these things. And writing the occasional article to chronicle the journey.
Not everyone will like this growth process, and, truly, that’s okay. Not everyone will be on the same journey, and that’s all right, too. Not everyone who walked my exact path will share the exact same regrets — and since we’re individuals, that shouldn’t really surprise anybody.
But everyone who belongs to God is being sanctified and conformed to the image of Christ. Everyone who is still breathing has more to learn about Him, and how they can glorify Him in their earthly shell.
Not everyone has every detail of my life and is able to sit as judge and jury when it comes to how I’m processing it, though. I’m okay with that. And they will have to learn to be okay, too. I’m not a mascot for a movement or a perpetual child. I’m a growing and changing, living and breathing human being who is constantly thankful for God’s grace in writing my life story.
And he’s not finished with me yet.