On the spectrum of male personalities, I fancy myself resting far more comfortably and happily on the “medieval Norseman devouring mutton off a rusty knife” side of things than the “Ken in the passenger seat of a pink Corvette” end. So it’s a sign of God’s good sense of humor that of the six children he has chosen to give me, five of them are lovely, very girly girls, meaning I live, move, and have my being in a world of dolls, dresses, and emotional roller coasters.
I have probably witnessed (and unwittingly caused) more female tears in my life than the Average Joe (zing!), but I tell you this: I wouldn’t trade any one of my daughters for a pack of sons. And I’ve found that nothing stirs up this old crustaceous soul like the love and affection I feel for my girls, not even a pallet of beef jerky, and that’s saying something. I don’t feel the least guilt about entering the door of my little tumble-down farmhouse-castle, taking my seat at the head of our rough wooden table lined on both sides by lovely ladies, diving into a meal fit for a king, prepared by my faithful wife. These women are my greatest treasures, and I’d die for any of them in a heartbeat. Burying one of them was, as you know, the worst. Alice used to show me her broken toys and say “Daddy fix it?” and as often as possible, Daddy did. So it nearly killed me when she was broken, and Daddy couldn’t fix it.
I only say this to give the reader some confidence that a) behind this grisly, sometimes grouchy exterior I have a deep, fatherly affection for my ladies, and b) I know something about them. What I am about to write may be misconstrued as the wild rantings of someone with chunks of steak between his teeth, rather than what they are: the tenacious desire of a father to see his ladies do well, and the anxious heart of a pastor who will someday answer to God for how he shepherded the young ladies in his care.
Crippling anxiety and depression are big problems for our young women today, and it’s no wonder. This little article from the Mayo Clinic lists all kinds of really good reasons women experience these problems at twice the rate of men, and there are, of course, many more. According to Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff in their excellent book The Coddling of the American Mind, social media is having a disproportionately adverse effect on young women, and is clearly contributing to many of the mental and emotional challenges that continually plague them. I would encourage you to read the book, or at least the article that gave rise to it.
I’ve now lived long enough to observe and conclude that pretty much every psychological, moral, or spiritual problem the world sets about to solve, it manages to make substantially worse. It’s not that the world can’t recognize there is a problem, but it’s either unable or (more likely) unwilling to understand either the problem or solution in the proper way, so it continually gets the whole thing bass-ackwards.
Case in point: Little boys acting like little girls is a little problem, and needs to be addressed particularly by Dads, because if it continues, little boys become men, and men acting like girls is a big problem, and nobody gets hurt worse if Dad fails than his little boy. But under the moral authority of “equality,” “justice,” and being true to one’s true self, the world allows, no encourages, and sometimes requires (even against the desires of good dads) that little boys and girls chemically and intentionally screw up their hormones in preparation to someday mutilate their perfectly healthy bodies. Who suffers most from this madness? Little kids, whose parents have been so blinded by the new enlightenment they can’t see what mothers have seen since Eve gave birth to Cain: “I have gotten a man.” As Voddie Baucham is fond of saying, “Some things are easy.” But if we can’t figure this out, what makes us so sure we can figure out anything that’s really hard?
The young women of our day really are victims, and I deeply feel for them. I just would question who the actual victimizers are.
They grew up in a world that told them their primary value was in their economic output, that true respect could only be found in their labors outside the home, that wife and motherhood isn’t worthy of being one’s primary identity, and unless they were equal in every respect to men (save the occasional stuck pickle jar lid), they weren’t really successful human beings. And, if they weren’t “truly” successful it was because men were oppressing them, because let’s face it, men suck. So we started feminizing the men, taking them to the salon, not the barber, and making them feel at home in the passenger seat of some Barbie’s pink Corvette. In reality, this just made it all the harder for a woman to find a good man, as Cornell University recently discovered.
Thirty years ago, Newsweek published a must-read article entitled “The Failure of Feminism.” It’s basically an exasperated, devastated voice crying out, “The Emperor has no clothes!” I’m rather shocked it’s still posted online, since it contains such radical and subversive statements as these:
I see feminism as the Great Experiment That Failed, and women in my generation, its perpetrators, are the casualties.
The reality of feminism is a lot of frenzied and overworked women dropping kids off at day-care centers. If the child is sick, they just send along some children’s Tylenol and then rush off to underpaid jobs that they don’t even like.
Women don’t belong in 12-hour-a-day executive office positions, and I can’t figure out today what ever made us think we would want to be there in the first place. As long as that biology is there, women can’t compete equally with men. A ratio cannot be made using disproportionate parts. Women and men are not equal, we’re different. The economy might even improve if women came home, opening up jobs for unemployed men, who could then support a wife and children, the way it was, pre-feminism.
Remember, these are not the ravings of a backwater minister who stabs his knife into the table while bellowing through a mouthful of gristle, “Wench, bring me more ale!” This is the staff of Newsweek magazine, three short decades ago.
In this enlightened age, parents generally subcontract out the raising of children to someone else, so they can continue on with whatever they were meaning to do in the first place, which didn’t include changing life around all too much when the kids arrived.
On top of that, almost all our kids today are drawn (or pushed) away from home into an endless succession of good, but very time-intensive extra-curricular activities, which means families rarely (if ever) sit down around a supper table, hold hands and say thanks to God above and Mom below for a hard-fought pan of lasagna and a loaf of freshly baked garlic bread. Even though most of us would say we want this kind of life, we don’t have time for it, and our inner wistful longings are always pushed aside to await some future date which we know deep down is never coming.
At the end of the day, we really don’t want this sort of thing badly enough to sacrifice anything to get it, or we’d have it. And it’s not that we don’t know something about sacrifice, is it? Of course we do. But it might be worth asking if the stuff we’ve piled on the altar is really the right stuff we want to see go up in smoke, and the stuff we’re sacrificing to get is really the stuff we want to keep.
I remember one dear hockey mom, with a lovely rink in her big, beautiful yard and a practice area in the spacious basement of her luxurious house saying to me, not as her pastor but just some guy trying to fix the knob of the large hardwood front door, with tears in her eyes, “I wish we’d never played hockey.” Hockey is a fine sport, and I’ll quite happily strap on some skates and flounder about on the ice if invited. Play it and love it, but the ones who won’t control the game will be controlled by it, and unintended consequences are a real thing.
From my perspective, one of the most dreadful of the unintended consequences of the status quo of modern life is a generation of young ladies whose idea of success is defined not by measuring themselves against what God made them to be, but what the culture is making them to be, and the two are quite dissimilar. Young women often have no idea of what kind of husband to look for, both because their dads are often either absent or lousy or both, and because frankly the pickings are mighty slim (but I’ll yell at the boys another time). They have no real reference for what family life is supposed to look like outside of sitcoms or Kim Kardashian’s Instagram, and although they are wired by God to have and love kids, and do have and do love their kids, they still face a tremendous pressure to be so much more than “just” a mom (sometimes from their husbands, no less), adding yet another layer of pressure, a new strain of anxiety, depression, and overall sense of being a failed human.
What they often fail to realize is that succumbing to these pressures won’t make their problems go away, and will make their problems worse, but it’ll also set up their own kids to have the same problems. The current phenomenon of grandparents raising grandkids is not, after all, only the failure of today’s parents. Some of this fruit is old, the wine isn’t too sweet, and the hangover is a doozy.
It’s not at all my intention to make hard and fast rules governing the things any family, or woman for that matter, can or cannot, should or should not do, as if Law, not Gospel, were the final solution. Life is complicated and a sinful world is by definition messy and dysfunctional. I get that, and my idealism is tempered by realism and sympathy. But if for no other reason than the epidemic of young women on the edge of emotional and spiritual disaster (and there are other very good reasons!), the time seems to be right to once again look to the Creator of women and consult His view of the distinction between genders, the dignity of motherhood, the sacredness of marriage, the weighty responsibilities of husbands and fathers (let’s transfer some of the pile of expectations from the ladies back on to them until they almost break – and I absolutely mean that), and the priority of family.
To my young female friends, I don’t envy the pressures you face from many sides, pressures not only to be more than God intended, but to be what God never intended.
I want to encourage particularly those young women tripping over their screaming, snot-nosed cherubs, as much as they’re able, to be ferociously, adamantly, joyfully content in their calling (from God!) to be a wife and a mother. It’s a good, noble, godly, sacred, satisfying calling, and one for which they are uniquely equipped. If they don’t do it, I guarantee we guys aren’t going to do it, or we’re going to do it, but way worse. God has instilled in the hearts of women a deeper connection and affection to those little ones than most of us guys could have, and I have to say, when I watch my wife’s eyes staring at those little ones, I envy her innate ability to love the way she does. And so far as I’m able, I want to support that, for her sake and for the sake of my daughters. Even if it means, for the sake of classing up the joint a bit for my girls, occasionally using a napkin instead of licking my deliciously greasy fingers.