The Increase of Mothers in the Workforce is Tied to a Misunderstanding of the Equality of the Sexes

In the book, Resident Aliens, by Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Williamon, there is an account of a church that sought to serve its community through the creation of a preschool that would ultimately function as a daycare for families with both parents working full-time.  The book presented a woman who asked hard questions about how our cultural norms in American society can seep into our church community’s services.  Her thought was that parents should be raising their kids and not childcare facilitators/teachers who are overseeing all the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of multiple kids, often times starting as young as six weeks old, for 8 to 12-hour time periods.  if people are doing this anyways, it seems reasonable that the Church can provide the childcare and thus ensure a Christian environment, but the lady in Resident Aliens challenged her church to say to hell with reason – don’t encourage parents to pawn their kids off so they can have more material goods!

Women and Men Roles

In 1948, only 17% of all married mothers were in the workforce.[1]  By 1985, this percentage rose to 61% and by 1995, it was at 70%.  In 2011, 68% of all women with children under 6 in America were working or looking for work.[2]  Another way of viewing this rising trend in working mothers who is to look at the changes that have occurred in childcare practices.  Today less than one-third of all children have a full-time stay at home parent, but in 1975 over half of all children had a stay at home parent, who was usually the mother.[3]  Almost a quarter of all children under 5 in America are in some form of organized child-care system.[4]  The point in giving these statistics is demonstrate that in American history it is a relatively new societal norm to have both parents working with their children being raised and cared for outside of the home by people who are not relatives, and from experience I know that this is a very common work and childcare dynamic found among Christians.  In response to this working trend, many churches do have all-day preschools/daycares – and so the hard question raised in Resident Aliens deserves attention – are these churches encouraging and propagating an American societal norm that is against God’s design for families (families in any society that is)?

Acknowledging that there are many diverse reasons as to why many families have shifted away from a single-income for their family to have both the father and the mother working full-time, in this paper I seek to pinpoint one error that I am convinced is the underlying core reason for the trend of mothers with young children to enter the workforce along with their husband, and that error is a misunderstanding of what it means for men and women to be equal.  In their article, “The History of Womanhood That Feminists Don’t Want You to Know,” the Botkin Sisters debunk four common myths about the goodness of feminism for women, and the first myth is the notion, “Before feminism, women were not as valued and did not have as many rights.”  Their answer is rarely spoken, even among Christians, so it might seem startlingly to read:

Before feminism, the Bible declared men’s and women’s equal standing and value before God – and in fact teaches this more consistently than any other religious or secular doctrine. In Scripture, man’s work and woman’s work are equally valid – wifehood, motherhood, homemaking, and femininity are not belittled, and women are not guilt-manipulated into living and acting like men. On the contrary; woman’s distinctiveness from man is praised and honored, and her unique role is held vital. Women were to be protected and cherished, to “attain honor” (Prov. 11:16) and be “praised in the gates” (Prov. 31:31). It wasn’t until the advent of women’s “liberation” that women were told, “Your value as a woman is determined by how well you can perform as a man. Being a woman is no longer enough.[5]

They further counter this myth by pointing out that long before feminism, “the Bible also gave the world strict laws to protect women from abuse, rape, incest, abandonment, injustice, and more. Moreover, it gave women something our legal system doesn’t: a whole system of provisions for women who end up in hard circumstances.”[6]  And finally, they put a nail in the coffin of the myth that men and women are equal in value because of feminism by pointing out the reality that:

Speaking historically as well as theologically, Christianity is the only social, spiritual, and political force that gives women true value and rights. It is the anti-Christian religions (including Marxism, Islam, and feminism) that demean, undervalue, and exploit women; throughout history, it was the Christian societies that truly valued women, protected women, and honored women (insofar as those societies were faithful to the Bible’s actual teachings).[7]

Their list of anti-Christian religions was far from exhaustive, but I would like to add another anti-Christian religion to their list, Hinduism.  When someone from the West who is largely operating from a Judeo-Christian influenced morality, even if she is not Jewish or Christian, looks at the value and rights of women in Indian society influenced by Hinduism throughout history all the way to present day and sees the complete devaluing of women, and after doing that takes a good hard look at Islamic countries and the value of women – it should become pretty obvious that women around the whole world are indebted to the value and rights of women taught in the Bible.  Just as scientists practicing the scientific method must steal from the Christian worldview to justify the validity of their repeated experiments, feminists must steal from the Christian worldview to justify their claim that men and women are equal and that women have the same rights as men.  Rights, after all, if they are to be inherent in all humans in all places and in all times, must come from a higher source than humanity; they must come from God.  And it is in Christianity that we are clearly told that the first man and the first woman were both created in the image of God, both created in his likeness. (Genesis 1:27) It is from this creation narrative that we understand that men and women have equal value – both being created in the image of God.

The error in understanding this equality is that equality has come to be understood as equal performance, or equal outcome, or the potential for equal performance and equal outcome in all facets of life.   Men and women are thought to be equal in every way.  This misunderstanding of equality is what has given rise to more and more women with young children in the workforce leaving their six week old infants into the hands of another woman[8] for the majority of their waking day. Equality has come to be understood as equal performance, or equal outcome.  This is why we hear the common mantras, “A woman can do anything a man can do” and “Whatever a man can do, a woman can also do.”  Then there is the truly woke mantra: “Whatever a man can do, a woman can do better.”

The 30-second sound bite to refuting this misunderstanding of equality as sameness is to point out that by God’s design a woman cannot impregnate herself or another woman, and that I as a man am horrible at giving birth and breastfeeding, as are all men.[9]

For a longer answer, I want to first offer a math equation as an explanation of how two things can be both equal and not the same at the same time, before giving a Biblical foundation for the uniquely God-given roles of men and women in society and within the family.

2 + 2 = 4.  This is an extremely simple equation.  Both sides have the same value, 4.  In value, they are equal.  However, if I added categorical values to each number, such as, 2 men + 2 women = 4 men, I have maintained an equal number of humans, but on each side there are now differences that make each side unequal in potential outcome and abilities.  If the goal was to win a 4 x 100m race, the side with 4 men has the vastly distinct advantage.  If the goal was to colonize a new planet, taking 2 married couples[10] would be of much greater value to the objective of procreation and building a society on a different planet than taking 4 men – due to obvious reasons of biological differences.  Both sides still have four humans created in the image of God and are equal in value in that sense, but due to the created differences between the sexes they are different in operational value depending on the role and expectations placed upon the two sides.

The appeal I’m making to different God-given roles for each of the sexes can be found in the curses God gave to the man and to the woman after the Fall into sin in Genesis 3.  The woman was cursed to have pain in childbearing – a role that was uniquely given to her and not to man.  The distinguishing glory of womanhood is now cursed.  She also was cursed to desire her husband’s headship over her.  By being created first, man was given the place of headship over the woman.  In addition to being created second in time, woman was created from man.  What was built and designed by God within his order of creation is now cursed… woman will now desire the place of headship (leadership, provision, protection, and the ultimate accountability and responsibility before God for the safety and well-being of families and societies).  The role built into creation for man is now also cursed… his work (care and stewardship over creation and within his family) shall be painful.

Paul is very clear about this created order in 1 Timothy 2:12-15.  The created order is why he does not allow a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man within the church – even if she is capable of teaching better than all the men in the congregation.  By Adam being created first, he was by his created order put into the position of teacher.  He named the animals before Eve was created, and within the creation narrative of Genesis 2, God gives him the commands not to eat of the forbidden fruit, as well as the command to procreate, but God does not give these commands to Eve.  Adam was thus thrust into the position of teacher by God.  By the nature of his created order, Adam taught Eve the names of the animals and taught her God’s commands.[11]

What is quite ironic then is that now that women have ascended to manhood, by “holding any position a man can hold in society,” women are now doubly cursed.  They have taken man’s curse of labor in provision for the family upon themselves, while still holding to their curse of bearing children in painful births.  As women struggle in pain for the headship of man within their marriages and families, more and more pain comes upon both the man and woman as the headship of the man is constantly challenged by the wife who is intentionally and constantly going outside of her God-given and designed role within the family and society, often times under the blessing and encouragement of her husband.

As I stated at the outset, I understand that there is a plethora of reasons why many families have both parents working full-time with their young children being handed off into the entrusted care of someone else, but the desire for women to be like men and to get their worth through such endeavors of work is seriously hurting women, men, and their children.  Both men and women are immensely valuable in the eyes of God – both were created in his image.  In Christ there is no distinction made between male nor female in the economy of salvation – all are saved by grace through faith in Christ.  Our work does not merit us any extra value before God… whether it is done in the home with children or in the fields of labor.   However, following God’s design and intended will for his creation is a sign of bearing fruit in keeping with repentance, and in our day and age to do such within the family is truly a sign of faith and love and holiness – and this true faith is attacked relentlessly by our own sinful desires, the world, and the devil.

I want to close with an example of the obvious pain and frustration that arises from going against God’s created design through the distortion of the God-given roles of men and women within the family order.   The following is a post that a Christian lady made when she first went back to working full-time after having her first child:

A couple of weeks ago, a well-meaning friend at church asked, “Do you have to go back to work, or are you able to stay home?” And in that moment, my immediate response was the truth, “I GET to go back to work.” I don’t take that for granted. I’m grateful that I have a husband who supports my drive and passion to work outside of the home. I’m grateful that we believe we have found the best solution for childcare for our family. It’s not that I HAVE to go back to work, but that I GET to go back to work. To do something that I care about. Something that I believe will make me a better mother.

Of course it’s bittersweet. I’ve spent the past 11 weeks caring for my son day in and day out. And I believe that no one will be able to do that like I do. But here’s the thing: Matt and I are still raising our son. It doesn’t matter who takes care of him during the day – WE are his parents. And I have to trust that he will always know his mother’s love and I trust that God has a plan.

I also believe that my son will see me doing this, and will know: that women can do this – women are intelligent and are leaders in the workforce. Maybe someday, he’ll be an even better colleague and employee himself because he saw my example and what I am capable of. That’s my hope.

In the meantime, can I have it all? Can I be a Godly woman, a wife, a mother, and a boss? Time will tell. Look at Ps. 37:4. It does NOT mean that God gives me everything I want. I’m praying that I earnestly seek His will in this – and that if I truly am, He will make sure that everything else falls into place.

There are many points of concern in her post.  First, she says it doesn’t matter who is raising her son.  I’m sure that’s not how the nanny feels about her position and value – just anyone can do my job?  For real?  Second, she is leaving her 11-week old son in the hands of another woman, to not see her child for long periods of the day.  This cannot be good for her son in his most formative years.  Third, he does not see all that his mom is doing for him.  He just knows that she drops him off and picks him up, when he should be with her.  He does not know what she is capable of, but he does know what she is not capable of, and that is taking care of him during the day when he still has no words to speak, when he still is completely defenseless.  Finally, she acknowledges that she isn’t sure that she can have it all?  She isn’t sure that she can fulfill all the roles she has taken upon herself, and in her case this is purely by her choice; it’s what she wants and it is what she GETS to do.  If she can’t have it all, which of these roles will she drop?  If she doesn’t drop one of them, which of the roles will suffer?  Which of the roles are already suffering?  All of them?

The following is her most recent post, less than nine months from the one I just shared, accompanying a picture of her holding her infant son tight against her chest while he is sleeping:

I wish it was this way all the time.  Working motherhood is getting the best of me. “He likes the nanny more.” “I only get 3 waking hours a day with him.” …and on…and on. He’s a daddy’s boy right now, and my heart aches. I want to work. I love working. I also love my sweet baby boy and miss him constantly.

[1] “Trends in Labor Force of married mothers of infants” https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2007/02/art2full.pdf

[2] “More Mothers of Young Children in U.S. Workforce” https://www.prb.org/us-working-mothers-with-children/

[3] “Fact Sheet: Child Care” https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/economy/news/2012/08/16/11978/fact-sheet-child-care/

[4] Ibd.

[5] “The History of Womanhood that Feminists Do Not Want You to Know” by the Botkin Sisters https://botkinsisters.com/article/the-truth-about-women-that-feminists-dont-want-you-to-know?fbclid=IwAR3dsoO3-swCB0vt5n7UmFtLL_kgHUJtY3guB5_BHFOZGZS9UnK_EH88atw

[6] The system of provision that they list from Scripture includes: “the gleaning system, the kinsman redeemer system, the family provision system, the poor-tithe system, the handmaid system, and more. Biblical Law presupposed that there will be sin and irresponsibility in every society, and that the true victims must be protected.”

[7] “The History of Womanhood that Feminists Do Not Want You to Know” by the Botkin Sisters

[8] I know I just assumed the gender of a daycare worker, and I’ll also assume that in most situations she will be watching more than one infant.

[9] But now that men can be women and women can be men in woke culture, women do have penises and can impregnate other women, and men do have menstrual cycles.  But this leftist progressive absurdity is the telos of the eradication of the distinction between the sexes to the embrace of the sameness of men and women view of the equality of the sexes.

[10] Two traditionally married couples – husband and wife, man and woman.

[11] Some of this is assumed into the narrative, but it is likely what Paul is alluding to when writing to Timothy, directly stating that Adam was first formed, then Eve, as the reason for why men should teach in the church and not have authority held over their heads by women.  Also Paul directly points to the role given to women in this passage as being the role that women should stick to within the family and within the church as the continue in the faith and love and holiness.

Published by

Andy Wrasman

I live in St. Louis with my wife and two young kids. I am a seminary student at Concordia Seminary. I've written a book called, Contradict - They Can't All Be True. Be sure to visit my other website: https://www.contradictmovement.org.

One thought on “The Increase of Mothers in the Workforce is Tied to a Misunderstanding of the Equality of the Sexes

  1. I would even add Judiasm is against Christianity views on women. The torah is followed, but the kabbalah, and the jewish mysticism and the talmud all speak badly of women and even non followers. Great post!

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