With respect to the household duties and childrearing responsibilities, women were pondering what Betty Friedan in her 1963 book, The Feminine Mystique, referred to as the silent question – “Is this all?”
The women’s liberation movement that began in the 1960s and continued into the early 1980s, also known as second-wave feminism, was instrumental in shaping the mind frame of an upcoming generation of young women. The media’s use of magazines, music, television and movies created an image of what a liberated, successful woman should be. This ideal woman was depicted as breaking free from the stereotypical role of the suburban stay-at-home wife and mother. The message was that women are intelligent human beings and deserve equality in the workforce. After all, why should a woman be limited to mundane household tasks when she is capable of so much more?
Having been born in 1966, I found myself, along with multitudes of other females growing up during that time, following the agenda that was set before us. The script we were handed went like this. Take college prep courses in high school and then attend a university to earn a degree. Delay marriage as you will probably drop out of college if you don’t. After achieving your degree, get started in your career field. If you desire to marry now, that is fine, but don’t give up your career as to be only a housewife would be demeaning and a waste of your hard-earned education. Besides, a two-income household will allow you to be able to afford some of the luxuries in life and, in an uncertain world, there is no need to put yourself in a position of financial dependence on a man. Devote at least a few years to becoming established in your profession before considering having children. If children are a part of your plan, there are daycares ready to tend to your babies so that you can be the successful career woman who has it all.
I followed the script. I graduated from college with a Bachelor of Science Degree in business and started a professional position in a company of nearly 20,000 employees in 1989. With these steps now complete, I married a wonderful man who has been my faithful, loving husband for over 28 years. After a few years, we had a new home built. I continued gaining valuable job experience that allowed me to work with national accounts. We had our first child. Ours was a healthy family with no financial concerns.
It might appear picture perfect, yet I found myself asking the same question the unfulfilled housewives of the 1960s asked – “Is this all?” How could I have followed the agenda so carefully yet be left with a feeling of emptiness and a yearning for something that I could not even identify?
Many women endeavoring to balance the roles of wife, mother, and career have expressed feelings of frustration, guilt, and regret, not to mention physical exhaustion. Frustration in feeling that everything is not done as well as they would like. For some, guilt over missing out on time spent with their children who grew up and moved out so quickly. For others, regret over delaying having children until they missed out on the opportunity to experience motherhood. Now we even hear of women who are publicly stating regret that they ever had children! The real regret should be recognizing that, as a society, we have been conditioned to believe that a career and material possessions offer greater fulfillment than marriage and motherhood.
If college degrees, careers in business, medicine, law and politics and substantially larger incomes provide women the liberation and fulfillment they desire, why then do they seem more discontent than ever? Why do we see staggering divorce rates, debt at unprecedented levels, and increasing use of antidepressants, especially by women? Years ago when traditional God-given roles for husbands and wives were honored, we did not see such things.
In spite of all the negative things we see, the good news is that the church of God has the solution. Men can again fill their rightful place as the provider for their families. Women can assume their role in the home, having gained the understanding that it does not take a career to be satisfied or to define who they are as women. Good mothers will find it necessary to have a diverse skill set to take children from infancy to adulthood. Living in accordance with God’s plan will produce a fulfilling experience for the whole family.