Writing, Deconstructing, Fears, and Loathing that “Keeper at Home” Phrase

embraceTotal stream of consciousness here today. A million thoughts dance around in my head, fighting for attention. It’s like Fight Club in my head. My mom-to-do-list is fighting with a treatise on social justice and reconciliation. Next up is a brawl between a meal plan for next week and my dystopian book idea, followed by homeschooling plans for my three kids versus a blog post on why Christian Feminism is an important thing. Like most of you, and especially like most moms, I struggle constantly with the competing voices in my life. I feel the tug of all that’s calling to me.

My calling. Can there be more than one? My egalitarian, Jesus feminist self wrestles with the complementarian evangelical construct I was taught for so long that a woman’s highest calling is raising her children and being a “keeper of the home” (a phrase I loathe for so many reasons).

My calling. Why does it have to be just one? If God’s called me to more than one, won’t he be faithful to enable me to complete them both? And yet the voices wrestling in my head throw condemnation my way. I’m selfish and wrong to want to do something for me. I’m not a good mom if I’m not 110% committed to my kids. I’m wrong for reluctantly homeschooling. I’m out of God’s will for pursuing a career outside my role of that “keeper at home” thing. It’s funny, but people will tell you that. Go public with wanting to quit homeschooling? You are told that “you are giving up on your children and Jesus doesn’t give up on us.” Really? Yes really. Got the Facebook T-shirt to prove it. How did those two things get conflated? You’ll be told that you are wrong for not putting the future of your children first, even if doing something for myself is important to my own sanity. Put your children first and forget your sanity. Self-care… Phhhtttt. Who cares?!

Keeper at home? That phrase has infected the Christian community. It’s especially infected the Christian homeschooling community. Or, actually, I think it was there at the genesis of the Christian homeschooling movement. It was a much more fundamentalist set that kick-started that movement, and they practically invented that phrase – or ripped it in a proof-text kind of way from the King James Version of Titus 2. Seriously, that phrase should be looked at in the original Greek and the manner in which Paul’s exhortation would have been taken in the Creten culture. A historical context might be pretty important to understanding a book written 2000 years ago. Just saying. Keeper at Home? To steal from The Princess Bride, “You keep using that phrase. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

To be fair, homeschooling is now branching out to many more sectors. Definitely many conservative evangelicals homeschool. Like gobs and gobs of evangelical Christians. It’s definitely the Casting Crowns, Chris Tomlin listening crowd now. Gone are the days when a homeschool convention is just people in denim jumpers and hair buns. Now it’s moms in capris and old navy t-shirts, wandering vendors with a pull cart of curriculum behind them. But there is a growing progressive Christian presence determined to raise social justice warriors and even now a rise of purely secular homeschoolers, looking to hack their educations.

Yet, you can’t shake a stick at a homeschool convention without hitting on a book or a blogger or a speaker whose job it is to tell me that I’m to be completely satisfied mired deep in laundry, having a quiverfull of children, and keeping my house completely organized and spotlessly clean. My husband should be a king, and I his dutifully submissive wife, taking care of his every need at home. I should take up sewing, have a garden, and coupon. And I should keep myself super fit and trim and not wear yoga pants and t-shirts around the house. Oh, and my house should run on a nice, neat schedule, starting with me rising at 5am to read my Bible, exercise, prepare a wholesome breakfast, school my children, wash the baseboards, do a myriad of other things, and then collapse in bed each night only after my to-do list has all been checked off and my husband has been properly satisfied (not that I mind that last part, mind you… wink, wink). Yes sir, that’s what a good keeper at home is like.

And that’s nothing like my reality. My reality is like running a sweaty marathon each day, to collapse into bed and run 26.2 again in the morning. All the blogs, all the speakers, all the Bible studies, all the books about being “a keeper at home” are pumping us full of completely unrealistic expectations. And these expectations slowly creep into standards and slowly get backed by cherry-picked Bible verses that become nothing more than legalistic standards that weigh us down in guilt and shame. Last I checked, Romans 8:1 says that “There is no condemnation” for those us who believe and Jesus stood up for the woman caught in adultery by telling her accusers to cast a stone only if they weren’t in sin, either.

Ugh. It’s tiresome. For the past two years, I’ve been deconstructing. It’s an exhausting process. But it’s been so damn good for me personally. Why do I believe what I believe? It’s a completely challenging process to evaluate everything. And it happens in spurts. It’s like taking a bath with a rough loofa and pumice soap, stripping the impurities away. It’s decluttering on a mental level instead of physical possessions. We hold so many beliefs and don’t even know WHY we believe them. Are they ones that line up with the command to Love God wholly and love others as I love myself? Are they ones that fit Micah 6:8’s exhortation of doing what is right, loving justice, and showing mercy?

And in deconstructing I feel like I have a million thoughts just wanting to pour out of me, so I write. And like the books If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, you know that leads me on a rabbit trail that just makes me want to write more. And for some crazy reason, people thank me for being raw and honest in my writing. I sit here trying to feel comfortable with opening myself up to the world and I feel so much that writing is a calling. Deep in my bones, there is a need to write. Like Sylvia Plath said, “I write only because there is a voice inside me that will not be still.” Writing enables me to use the adult side of my brain that sometimes gets lost in the daily mom routine of laundry, food, and being such a spectacularly mediocre “keeper at home.”

So, I’m going to start writing more. I’m going to purposefully blog. I’m going to find time to work on my really cool dystopian novel. And I’m going to be honest with my deconstructing. It’s led me to places that I’m so afraid that many of my friends and family aren’t going to like. I’m not the good little conservative Christian, Reagan-loving member of the vast, right-wing conspiracy I once was. But I want to share why and how I got to being this person I am now. I’m not aiming to change your mind. I’m just sharing a bit of me, and maybe I might provoke you to think or maybe I won’t. I just hope and pray that we can still be friends despite the fact I might sound more like a liberal nut job, progressive Christian to you.  Honestly… I am completely terrified of alienating friends with my changes. So, please, just remember if you know me, you know my heart. You know I’m coming from a place of wanting to do what it says in Micah 6:8

Micah 6:8 – O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

And with that… God’s peace to you all!

2 responses to “Writing, Deconstructing, Fears, and Loathing that “Keeper at Home” Phrase

  1. It’s super funny that I just read a devotional in my NIV Bible about this the other day… my 2 cents… I would LOVE to go back to work and not homeschool cuz it would be sooooo much easier for me! BUT I think that God gets way more character development out of me by staying home and teaching my children through the STRUGGLE! HA!

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