Daughters are amazing creatures. They play princess, they catch frogs, they like to snuggle. At least mine do.
But many of us have more problems raising daughters because there's confusion as to what, exactly, we're supposed to raise them to be.
I was watching a really cute movie last night called Definitely, Maybe. Don't watch it with kids, and be aware that there are questionable morals. But at one point one of the young women reports just feeling so lost. She can't figure out what job she wants, or what she wants to do with her life, and she's lonely. And as I'm watching this, I'm thinking, "the reason she's lost is because all these twenty-somethings are trying to find themselves and set up their own lives, and we weren't really supposed to do that. We were supposed to get married." It's an awful thing to think, in a way, because I do believe that people need to be secure in God and who they are in themselves before they marry. But I also think a lot of our angst is simply because we were not meant to be alone, struggling in isolation, the way we do today.
My hometown in Belleville, Ontario, has just lived through a horrible mess. We're right beside Trenton, the largest air base in Canada, and last week the head of that airbase, Russell Williams, was arrested for killing two women and sexually assaulting two others in their homes. Jessica Lloyd, who went missing on January 28, lived two doors down to my former sister-in-law. Everybody in some way or another was hit by this case. And it makes it so much worse that the killer apparently is such a high military commander.
But these women who were killed lived alone. I just don't think women were really meant to be unprotected like that. Now I lived alone before I was married, but I think it's just safer with roommates or with your parents. I do want my girls to experience independence, but you have to be careful. (I'm not trying to blame these women, by the way. What was done to them was NOT THEIR FAULT. And as I said, I did live alone. But you are more likely to be the victim of a crime if you live alone, and it just makes me uneasy thinking of my daughters like that).
It is certainly my dream to see both of my daughters happily married to Christian men. I pray for those men, I talk to my daughters about how to choose a husband, and they're certainly thinking in that direction (though both don't see the point in dating until you're old enough to marry, thank goodness). But I don't think you can raise your daughters assuming that they will marry and that marriage will take care of all their problems--safety issues, income, loneliness, identity. First, there's no guarantee they will marry. This world has more Christian women than Christian men, and if you want your kids to marry Christians, then they could potentially have a problem.
There's also no guarantee that the man they marry will live healthy until he is 85. Many men go through periods of injury or illness and the wife has to support the family. Or perhaps he's in school for an extended period of time and she has to work. Finally, not to be overly negative, but not all marriages work. My mother thought she was marrying a Christian, and six years later he dumped the church and us for another woman. And let's not forget that God did say that it is better to be single than to be married. It's always possible that God may call your daughters to be single to be involved in some kind of missions work. And we do have to be prepared for that, and thus prepare them for that.
I've also known women who feel very called to a career outside the home (I feel called to a career, too, but I've been able to work at it at my home). Some have figured out creative arrangements with husbands, where each works part-time. Other women have taken the fifteen years out of the workforce when they were raising their children, but did return to work afterwards for several decades. Let's not forget that raising kids is only part of your adult life.
Besides, isn't education for its own sake a great good? I am a better homeschooling mom because of my education. I can talk to people from higher social circles because of my education and experience. I just find life interesting because I've had a chance to study so much of it. I don't believe in going into major debt for a university degree that may never get you a job, but educating yourself online, or taking college courses, or doing it more cheaply, still definitely has its benefits.
I know many women in my social circles, and on the internet, who don't think very much about their girls having careers, and want to raise them instead to be great moms. And chances are our daughters will marry, and perhaps they won't need to work outside the home. But why bet on "chances"? We need to raise them so that no matter what happens, they'll be able to cope well. Isn't that the job of a parent? That's why I firmly believe in schooling for my daughters. I have many friends who don't, because "their girls are going to get married anyway", but I don't think that's wise or practical. You don't know, and chances are they'll need her income, at least while starting out. Make sure your girls can earn an income.
When we're thinking about potential careers, and my daughters and I talk about this a lot, we always think about what sorts of things they like, what can earn a good income, but what can also give them flexibility and allow them to work from home so they can stay home with their kids. They're aiming for an education, but they don't want to end up stuck with a job that they can't do with kids, and thus throw away those years in university.
As parents, we have to steer our girls in the right direction. We have to raise our girls (and our boys) to be ready to marry, to have good relationships, to know how to care for a household and manage the finances. But we also have to prepare them for the fact that they may not marry right away. Let's aim to keep them safe, steer them in good career directions, but make sure they can earn some money. To assume that their lives are necessarily going to turn out the way we want them to isn't doing a full job as a parent. And it's really not fair to our girls.
UPDATE: Too funny! My blogging buddy Terry wrote about the exact same thing on the exact same day! Read her post here.
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Labels: daughters, parenting, teenagers, teens