Friday, July 27, 2007

The Myth of the Perfect Mother

I recently read Carla Barnhill's book The Myth of the Perfect Mother. In the beginning of the book Barnhill argues that evangelicals have uncritically adopted a secular view of women that is unbiblical and creates an unnecessary burden on moms. Here is a part of the book that caught my attention:

It's also a mistake to assume that the "traditional" family model we associate with the '50s had anything to do with conservative Christian values or a generation of people who finally got family "right." In truth, our modern understanding of family owes more to Richard Nixon than to the church.

In an effort to make the American way of life appear superior to Communism, mid-century American political leaders promoted the idea that in America, every family could own its own home, that jobs were so plentiful and lucrative women had the luxury of staying home, that capitalism allowed every family to own a car and a washing machine. The middle-class suburban family was created to make America look good... The same trappings--the house, the yard, the family itself--have been incorporated in the evangelical assumptions about women (and to some degree men...). We have translated the '50s model of the perfect American family to the model of the perfect Christian family. In doing so, we have taken away a women's ability to follow God's leading in her life and replaced it with a kind of bondage to an ideal that isn't consistent with the call of Scripture.
This makes me wonder which ideals of motherhood I hold that may be unbiblical. What assumptions do I make about being a "good" mom that I should examine more closely? How can I honor God in my mothering without allowing the role of motherhood to supersede every other area of my walk with God?

On a related subject: I was thinking more about the tension between taking care of our children and serving God more this week. It occurred to me that in the Old Testament God was known as a god who did not require child sacrifice. While other nations routinely sacrificed their children to their gods, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob despised the idea. God tested Abraham's faith by asking for Isaac, but in the end God stopped Abraham from actually sacrificing Isaac and provided an animal for the sacrifice.

Our children should not be more important to us than obeying God, but I don't think God asks us to sacrifice the lives of our children. This isn't always an easy balance to maintain though, especially in a culture where we work so hard to give our kids every opportunity and advantage. I know I am still working through what this means in our family. Any thoughts?

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