A woman’s place is …

In the kitchen?

I used to hate that joke – and the dozens of others like it that suggest women should stay home and cook, clean,  have babies and that’s it. As a relatively intelligent female with career ambitions, I have always felt like women underestimate themselves based on these cultural assumptions about our role in the world. I find myself currently in a battle between my desire to be the strong, successful career woman I’ve always wanted to be and the overwhelming urge to start a family, be a mom, and cook and clean and care for the people that I love the most.

The tension is palpable, really. And I know that there are a dozen reasons why the latter option would not be particularly successful right now.  I am nowhere near equipped enough to parent a child. I could have a baby, sure, but the idea of parenting … of training a child, forming them spiritually and intellectually and relationally … is daunting. I guess one is never truly “equipped” to parent, but I do desire a stronger sense of who I am and who Price and I are as a couple before we even think about bringing a child into this world.

But it’s still a struggle. And it’s so funny, because I never-ever-ever-ever thought there would be any part of me that would want to stay home and cook all day. And I still don’t think I will ever get to do just that, but it’s been such an unexpected shift in my heart.

I’m in a book group at church with a group of women who are studying what it means to be a godly woman (Proverbs 31), and today we spent well over an hour discussing the idea of femininity. What is it? Where do we get it? How do we feel it? How do we show it?

Femininity is how we carry ourselves, express ourselves, dress ourselves. It is our nurturing, relational side. It is our inheritance from Eve. It is an extension of God’s love. It is Proverbs 31. I ache for it, pray for it, hope that I embody it. And everyday I fail. I control too much and trust too little. My kitchen is a mess, my laundry isn’t done, my floor desperately needs to be swept … and these things make me feel like I fail as a wife, and as a woman.

So what is it that tricks my brain into believing that my value as a woman can so easily be measured by the fluffiness of my cakes or the crispiness of my roasted chicken? Why do I, as a strong, intelligent, career-oriented women, still feel inadequate when I opt for takeout instead of a home-cooked meal?

And maybe I’m in the minority on this one – maybe you don’t put that same pressure on yourself. But somewhere along the way, women began to face a double-standard: we have to be successful at work, but also successful at home. And when we hold ourselves to both standards, one is inevitably going to suffer. More often than not, I’m afraid, it is the latter that falls apart.

So here I am, almost 24 with a newly-minted GRE score that could get me into (almost) any program I wanted. I have these big dreams of defeating the farm bill and teaching immigrant and refugee women how to navigate an American grocery store and feed their families well, of teaching school systems how to do good food on a macro-scale and baking cupcakes to build wells in Africa. But I also have dreams of a big house, with a big kitchen where all my friends and family can gather, where my children’s friends will come uninvited and stay as long as they want, where my extended family comes together for holidays and cakes come out of my oven for every possible occasion.

I don’t think those dreams are mutually exclusive, but I’m not sure how it’s all going to work. So for now I will relish my place in my little kitchen, because it’s where I am at home. Some women feel most feminine when they are all dressed up, when their hair is curled and their makeup just right. But I feel most feminine on nights like tonight, when I haven’t showered and my hair is a mess and I have on barely any makeup, but my house is full of family that I love and food that I have made. I am doing exactly what I was made to do, what makes me most happy. And I don’t know that I would trade that feeling for all the career success in the world.

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6 thoughts on “A woman’s place is …

  1. i’m with you on points a, b, c, and all of the above.

    i’ve been “at home” for a couple months now in between jobs, working for myself, and working hard – but able to schedule it around all the things i want to do at home. i’ve planned menus for the week, and generally been on top of all the things that keep the home side of me satisfied.

    now i’m close to going back to the career side that i love and miss, and i’m worried. because i can’t drop the ball at home, not because of any pressure from my husband or anyone else, but because it makes me feel complete and fulfilled.

    it’s a hard line to walk – but know i’m walking it, too. i’ll let you know if i have any breakthroughs, and you do the same, alright?

    • Thanks Abby! It’s nice to know there’s someone else living with this tension. I can only imagine it is doubly-difficult for you as Luke is in school and teaching, and I assume almost all the housework falls your way! But isn’t it sweet to be able to care for our husbands?

      I definitely enjoyed Priscilla’s perspective below about seasons … that seems to make the most sense. It’s just hard because we want to be living every season now, and that’s just not realistic. Good luck as the work stuff takes off again!

  2. I love how God starts changing what we desire most out of life as we continue to grow. Praying that you will find some peace while reconciling two halves of your desires.

  3. mel (can i call you that? price calls you that and i think it’s quite lovely), beautiful post and beautiful musings. i also never ever could see myself leaving a fun and challenging career to be at home. never ever. and then it happened and i can’t imagine not doing.

    so this is all stuff i have been pondering a lot lately.

    and recently i wonder… maybe we weren’t lied to so much about “superwoman – you can do it all!” but maybe the timing of it? could there be times, phases in our lives where we focus on one more than the other (ie: career, home, creative passions)? and perhaps the world and the workplace needs to learn how to adapt to THAT model of womanhood.

    regardless, wish i didn’t have to miss the conversation on saturday. i’m just now sitting down with the book and look forward to the next meeting.

    ramble ramble…

    • Thanks Priscilla! And of course you can call me Mel … my mother named me with the absolute determination that “Melanie” could not be nicknamed, but alas, almost everyone I know calls me “Mel”.

      Thanks for the perspective too … I really appreciate your thoughts on it as you have transitioned to the full-time mommy/wife. The only trouble with the “seasons” approach is that it requires patience … something that I am absolutely awful at having!

      Hope you can join us for the next book group, whenever it is!

  4. I sort-of have that tension, but it’s more that I WANT to be at home, and I can’t be right now. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s just a season, but I’m really not sure if that’s true or not. I will probably always have to work. And it makes me sad.

    For the longest time, I felt like I was a terrible wife/female/person when I couldn’t keep up with the cleaning or laundry, or whatever I felt that I was “expected” to do (but really only expected myself to do). I’ve let go of a lot of that… and now find that my house is cleaner and I cook more. (Only working weekends helps that. And it’s not ALWAYS cleaner…)

    You are strong and independent and smart and wonderful, and I’m sure that at some point in your life, you will find the perfect blend of the at-home and the career. Good luck on that journey 🙂

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