The other morning we were playing store. We picked out toys to sell and made a price list. I started getting into the creative mode and asked David where he got all his money. He didn’t know, so I started prompting him with occupation ideas… a doctor like daddy, a preacher, a pilot. Predictably, David decided he was a pilot.
Then I turned to Bethel to ask her what she did– and stopped. I might have been silent for a whole minute. Although we will encourage her to pursue an education that will allow her to support herself should God not send her a husband, and although she may work as an adult woman, married or not, we want her to view staying at home as a wife and mother a a high calling to be desired. We want to teach her to be a keeper at home, as the Bible puts it in Titus 2:5.
But that doesn’t sound right when we play the game– Bethel gets to stay at home and spend her husband’s money? While her brother gets to choose from a variety of occupations, Bethel is stuck with something mundane? Surely when we’re just playing a game it’s fine for her to talk about what she wants to be.
My parents did a great job communicating the value of being a keeper at home. I remember a preteen talking about jobs, and my mom suggesting a book reviewer because I liked to read, but also because it was a job that was flexible if I had a family. I know we talked many times about the need for flexibility should God send a husband or not. They encouraged hobbies that could supplement a family income or become full-time jobs. We talked about how being a keeper at home was not a job for the faint of heart or mind, contrary to the world’s opinion. I knew from a young age that being at home was challenging and interesting. An eleven year old can easily understand the subtlety here, but what about a three year old?
As I was explaining to Lee, being a keeper at home involves an enormous variety of subskills and jobs that a woman has freedom to choose from. I have far more freedom to develop interests of mine than he does. There’s a wide variety in what each individual keeper at home does. Rather than being limiting, the choice to stay at home gives me tremendous freedom to pursue just about any interest I have.
Here’s the question: How do we communicate the value and priority of being a keeper at home to a three year old? I’m not talking about the skills. I know that my contentment and interest in the job teaches by example. But when we’re playing games, how do I explain in positive terms the lack of options?
When we play store, should I smile benignly when she says she wants to be a Thunderbird pilot, too? The fact is, if David were declaring that he wanted to be a NFL star, I wouldn’t be correcting him at age four to tell him that a football career isn’t very family or church friendly. I wouldn’t tell him that his athletic ability is probably not good enough, even if that is the truth. As he gets older, I’ll encourage him to pursue other avenues, and I’ll share the objections if needed. Should I take the same approach with Bethel?
Maybe this is a good question to ask of some of the older mothers in my church family. I think I might get some interesting answers.
Lyn Marshall says
Hey, Michelle! Interesting thoughts and questions. On a humorous level, I’m impressed that David only wants to be one thing. At that age, John wanted to be a fireman-policeman-swimmer with the dolphins-astronaut. And it hasn’t been that many years since Susannah expressed the fervent hope that God’s will for her would be to work as a groom on a horse farm in Kentucky (she’d be willing to sleep in the barn). 🙂
On a more serious level, the best way that I know of to encourage my daughter to be interested in being a keeper at home is to be content in my own job and to let her know that I think that being a wife and mom is the greatest job in the whole world (with the greatest boss in the whole world). I also have to be patient enough to slow down in doing my work to allow her to work along side of me so that she can learn the practical skills associated with being a homemaker.
I do agree that our example is of utmost importance. I have some growth in that area, I know! So… when Susanna expressed her desire to be a groom on a horse farm, what did you say?
Lyn Marshall says
As nearly as I can recall, I said something along the lines of, “If God wants you to be a groom on a horse farm in Kentucky, I hope that you will be the best groom in the whole state.” 🙂
On the other hand, tactful redirection is a powerful tool. 🙂 I have repeatedly observed with Susannah that she enjoys “helping Mommy,” and so she tends to respond very positively to a “Would you help me with XXX?” request. Working alongside each other, talking about what I am doing and why it’s important, helping her learn and practice various skills (and me practicing patience while she does so) . . . all are helpful in focusing her aspirations.
Jay Younts says
If I may be so bold as to suggest a change in the title of your post – The question framed from a biblical perspective might be “What do you want to become?” We don’t know the future in terms of what life will be like in 15 years or so. This is the wonder of living in God’s kingdom. The only thing for certain is that God will still be God. The challenge for our children is to orient their lives around living the glory of God. This statement becomes practical as we see the power of Acts 17:24-28. The reality is that an adventure, a journey awaits your children. God will move them where ever He wishes on this planet so that they or those around them will be called to reach out for Him. God has promised he will provide good things for your children to accomplish. Eph.2:10. Purpose in life is not ultimately found in flying F-15’s or being at home. Purpose is directly tied to adding to the reputation of God. Give your children this goal. So what does it look like to add to the reputation of God in particular circumstances? Well, if Bethel is going to the store to buy things, what is the reason for those purchases. She buys things to help her do her work at home. That work, tied to the glory of God, becomes elevated beyond the mundane to the extraordinary. God organized all of human history (Acts 17) so that she would be at that particular home at that particular time to do those things which add the reputation of God. Those purchases at the store help her do that. The world may not notice the significance of a home organized around this great theme, but God and the heavenly realms do – Eph. 3:10. Encourage your daughter that wonderful things await her even if they appear to be mundane. Encourage your son, that great things await him as well, things far more significant than flying F-15’s, as cool as that might be. He, like his sister, can impact history for God, by seeking to add to the reputation of God in everyday life. This is what happened with Joseph. His life seemed to deteriorate into utter insignificance in a foreign prison. Yet, overnight, God responded to Joseph’s faithfulness to the supposed mundane and placed him in the place of having more power than perhaps anyone on earth. So, the question is, what to you want to become? Only Christians can answer that with the awe and wonder of living to add the reputation of the Lord of the Universe.
I wanted to have a chapter in Everyday Talk about Joseph but we didn’t have room. But it is still an awesome story. This is one of those times that everyday talk makes the difference.
I also found out that your husband and I have a mutual friend – Capt. Paul Joyner. Paul was in my church before he became a chaplain. Paul speaks quite highly of your husband.
Anyway, hope this thought is helpful to you.
Jay, I agree with your conclusions, but I’m not so sure that I am catching the significance of the specific wording change. All the things you state, I would agree are helpful for sharing with my children. What I’m struggling with is how much to redirect their ideas at this age. The fact is, I’d not at all be keen for David to become a pilot, and we do not encourage it. If as an adult he chose to pursue that route, I’d want to make sure he understood the ramifications for church and family life. Likewise, Lee has offended more than one parent when he has discouraged young ladies from pursuing a career as a physician. Even the secular physicians have a struggle in their desire to be with their children more, and their genuine enjoyment of medicine.
But, what’s a simple way to respond to a three or four year old these considerations? That’s what I’m struggling with. Personal choice is a large part of pursuing one’s path in life, and I recognize as an adult that God shapes our desires and experiences when we are submitted to His leading. So I don’t want to totally take the choice aspect away form our discussions. But neither do I want to convey the thought that God’s thoughts and ways are not a part of the decision making process, either.
I’ll be thinking on what you have said. Your thoughts on Joseph were a blessing and encouragement to me personally as I read them yesterday.
p.s. Lee was encouraged in the time he was able to spend with Captain Joyner. We were sad when he left.
Lyn, these are good observations as usual. Thank you for your thoughts.
Jay Younts says
Michelle, sorry for my recent comment on your blog not being clear. What I intended to communicate is that no matter what young children may dream about in terms of a career, you want them to connect that with doing things to honor God. So while their interests may change from fighter pilot to policeman to doctor the one constant is that they should consider how does this add to God’s glory. Over time this will result in making decisions based upon biblical priorities instead of the world’s priorities. Thus, your husband’s wise thoughts about your daughter’s future become wedded (no pun intended) to the idea of what matters is how can she best serve God as a woman who embraces the biblical parameters for females. For your son, the fighter pilot lifestyle must be weighed against what kind of husband and father does God want him to become. At age 4 or 5 children’s imaginations can run wild. You just want those imaginations to carry the thought of honoring God. Then as they mature, they can begin to examine their life’s calling in light of the gifts that God has given them to serve in his kingdom, rather than what is the most fun or exciting or financially rewarding. So you can say, that while being a fighter pilot is exciting, is it something that will help honor God in my larger life calling. At these young ages you don’t want to burden them with the weight of the making of mature decisions that will occur when they are much older. But neither do want them to imagine cool things in the future without thinking about glorifying God.
I realize the become and be distinction is a bit subtle 🙂 I was thinking of be in terms of a profession and become in terms of the person.