Friday, August 25, 2006

It's Not About the Career

Michael Noer is either an incredibly courageous journalist, or an incredibly stupid one.

His article this week in Forbes has raised quite a stir. (Incidentally, after day one, a counter-point was added to the website, written by one of his co-workers.) Entitled, "Don't Marry Career Women," the article shows extensive research that supports the idea that a career woman may be a less ideal choice for a spouse if what you're after is faithfulness in your marriage and a happy mother for your children.

All furor aside, I think he missed a vital point. Whether a woman has a career is not the issue. Her priorities are.

I'm concerned about the implications for single Christian career women who exude so much confidence and self-actualization and independence that they leave single Christian men with little to offer them. If a 25 year old career gal earns enough to pay her way, she doesn't need a provider. If she's fit and strong and maybe a black belt to boot, she doesn't need a protector. There's a strong cult of independence, so strong in fact, that I worry it will render a lot of single Christian women unable, or unwilling, to ever become interdependent enough to want or even be capable of Christian marriage.

I'm not saying the single gal should limit herself to knitting and waiting for prince charming, but what her attitude says about her priorities goes a long way toward determining if she'll ever be getting married or forever staying single.

Does she want marriage? Does she want children? Is she open to or planning on quitting her high-powered job to raise her family when they arrive? Then she should make sure that part of her is as obvious as the driven-career woman part.

16 Comments:

At 7:04 PM, Blogger Ashleigh said...

Candice, this is really interesting. I love how you point out that the issue is priorities, not necessarily a career.

The other day I was listening to the testimony of Candace Cameron Bure (who played D.J. Tanner on the 1980s/1990s ABC sitcom "Full House"). In it she shared how even after she got married and had kids, her priorities were skewed because many times her career was most important to her. It was what she thought about all the time -- probably because she'd worked from the time she was five and it had always been top on her list. But, she said that after she got serious with the Lord, He begin to deal with her on this and now she's a stay-at-home mom (although she does speak across the country and do acting jobs here and there). But from her testimony it seemed like the heart of the issue was priorities. Anyway, yesterday I posted a section of her testimony on my blog. If you're interested in reading what she had to say, email me and I'll send you the link to that post.

 
At 1:47 AM, Blogger Elena said...

I've discovered over the years that it is my attitudes toward people that make or break my interactions with them. A smile; a kind, interested tone of voice; and a readiness to laugh healthily at oneself go a long way to soften any sharp corners on one's personality.

When a woman genuinely explores her interests which involve other people...when she fears God and not people's opinions...when she fights for and chooses joy...when she takes interest in other people (in healthy ways)... she shows her wife/mother potential. And I believe that an astute man of the Lord will recognize that woman---who boasts neither in her career nor in her intelligence but in her Lord. She is a woman who is freed up to encourage others, to praise them, to support them, to nurture and nourish them, and to be a man's greatest cheerleader. She is a woman who embodies Wisdom... a member of the P31 sisterhood of her era. Such a woman shines with the radiance of Christ.

When we single gals stop worrying so much about the dearth of men worldwide or churchwide or about our probabilities for finding a man and look to Christ for the source of all we need, then we will be those radiant mirrors of the Truth, the Way, and the Life.

What do y'all think?

 
At 12:16 PM, Blogger Anakin Niceguy said...

Candice,

You say the career is not the issue but the attitude. But I counter: Is it not the attitude that drives women to pursue a high-powered career in the first place? If women think they can spend their twenties and thirties enjoying the thrill, excitment, and independence of embracing careerism, only to starting looking for a husband when their biological clocks start ticking, I think they will be disappointed. Looking at men like a glorified pension plan when women are ready to "settle down" is what is getting them into trouble. We need to drop the myth that women can "have it all." They need to decide up front which train they are going to take: careerism or caring for a family. Women may complain that men don't have to make this kind of choice. I counter that we never had this kind choice in the first place.

 
At 9:37 PM, Blogger Mike Theemling said...

What Anakin is saying (I think) is basically the premise of the infamous "Cose of Delaying Marriage" article. That regardless of reasons, simply put a woman in her 30's is less likely to find someone which she would consider ideal than in her 20's.

Personally, I didn't really buy a lot of the arguments the guy was making. He cited all these studies but (as usual with most articles) fails to see how they necessarily link together (A&B correlations and the like. Did you know that ice cream is the culprit of an increase in rapes?! It's true, the consumption of ice cream goes up in the summer, and so do the instances of rape, therefore...)

The one valid point he did make is that I would agree with is that there is a definite danger of a career woman to become prone to affairs, especically involving many "late night hours". Because unless the man and woman have careers in common, chances are they will not have the time nor energy to really bond as they should. And a woman (and also a man, such temptations is not limited to one gender) could easily feel more "attached" to a coworker than her husband, especially if she finds the marriage mundane.

I agree with Candice's viewpoint: A woman can have a career if she wants to. But the moment it starts interfering with her family life, the career needs to go. It's best to find out before the knot is tied if a woman honestly can do that. Those that think they can have the best of both worlds are going to put unnecessary strain on themselves and their families.

Another un-PC thing to say is I do not buy for a minute the whole "the woman needs to work because they can't survive on 1 income". Balderdash. The truth is, "the woman needs to work because she/they still want all the toys she/they had when she/they was single (newer cars, dining out a lot, etc. etc.)". I think there is evidence out there that gives validity to the "2-income inflation" theory. I am not suggesting that we all of sudden try and take women out of the workplace en masse (remember that when men went to war in WWII it was the WOMEN who went to work in the factories to pick up the slack), but that we seriously ask ourselves why a woman insists on working.

Finally, there of course is the question of, "Why all this emphasis on the woman? Isn't it sexist to assume that the man needs to tbe breadwinner?" That's for another entire theological/socialogical/everythingogical debate, but I'll simply say that there is a societal norm in all cultures and history (what C.S. Lewis might have called "Natural Law") that the man is the one who is the provider. For example, the Chinese character for "man" consists of the "Strength" and "(Rice) Field" while the one for woman pictures a woman holding a child. Therefore, I don't think it's necessary sinful per se to have a Mr. Mom family by choice, but that it simply isn't the norm.

 
At 10:05 AM, Blogger A. LaLande said...

It isn't just about biological clocks - God has instilled a longing for marriage and family deep in the soul of every woman! Perhaps they may not figure this out right away, but I really think that this is due to societal brainwashing (brainwashing that doesn't quite work) rather than career women with an attitude. I am blessed with a supportive family - but this does not extend to my relatives and many of my friends. Some of my female relatives/friends want a family more than anything, but they have been made to feel ashamed of the desire and so stifle it. It will take a very special man to see past the "careerism" attitudes, but I pray and hope that it will happen for them. And it is true that there will be struggles to overcome the career vs. family mindset. Actually, it is selfishness, whatever form it takes, that we must all fight against.

The other day, my pastor was chatting with me about my college coursework, jobs, etc. He started talking about needing to have a passion for something. All of a sudden he stopped, looked me straight in the eye, and asked, "What do you REALLY want to do?" I stammered for a minute, then said (as boldly as I could manage), "I REALLY want to get married and have kids." That's my passion! Despite his liberal leanings, my pastor was very encouraging and said something that seemed profound - he said, "The first thing is not to find a man - it is to have the willingness to get married." That willingness is lacking in this culture, isn't it?! His words echoed the lessons I've been learning about marriage. As I have been pondering it, I've realized that no matter how many singles' Bible studies I go to, no matter how many social events I participate in, no matter where I go or live - I could look my whole life and not find someone to marry. With that realization came the knowledge that here indeed is an area in which I can ONLY trust God completely and wholly. It is exciting and scary to put something as big as this into God's hands. This doesn't mean I am not active - but the activity follows God's leading instead of preempting it! Instead of looking to myself to figure out where to go and what to do, I can rest assured that God will help me! It is such a relief when I find myself backed into a corner where only God can bring to me the fulfillment of my desire for husband and children. I no longer have to worry or fret...just simply trust in my dear Father.

That is merely my own journey - it takes different forms, I know, but I've been so excited about it I felt I must share with fellow marriage-seekers here! To change the subject a bit, here is a challenging question - should women consider giving up higher education if marriage is an option at that time?

 
At 3:10 PM, Blogger K said...

Another un-PC thing to say is I do not buy for a minute the whole "the woman needs to work because they can't survive on 1 income"

Though my simple fixes for fertility gap were censored, I must say that my peeve regarding this discussion is the use of "income" as a unit of measure. A large family can live quite comfortably on a radiologist's "income" of $300k, but it would be difficult to live a middle-class life on a graduate student's "income" of $20k.

So I buy it, if the husband's income isn't all that much. But the argument is often employed by women whose husbands earn a good living, because it would sound stupid to say "we just can't make it on my husbands $100k/year" in a room full of people whose combined dual incomes are less than that.

 
At 8:03 PM, Blogger Firinnteine said...

Why must we lead a middle-class life?

Although I intend to do my best to support my family, I'm pretty sure we could still glorify God living somewhere beneath the somewhat arbitrary poverty line... at least, I've know people who did (some of them with quite large families) -- and not all of them seemed miserable. :)

 
At 8:21 AM, Blogger lis said...

No, not miserable at all! I'm the oldest of eight, and we were raised quite happily on a very, very modest pastor's salary. My mom's key role was in exercising the old-fashioned skills of resourcefulness and frugality.

One of my best memories: all of us children praying together for a new suit coat for my dad...and God answering with an unexpected gift from a person who knew nothing about the need.

The feeling that as a family we are all part of a team, and all needed, is a priceless one. It colors my attitude toward my church family, and has helped build a solid foundation for my own sense of worth.

Pretty priceless results of a low income!

 
At 12:53 PM, Blogger Jake said...

A. LaLande: Ah, yes, the famous "the true deepest desire of every woman's heart is to be barefoot and pregnant while cooking dinner for their brood of 7, they're just afraid to admit it because they've been shamed by radical feminists" argument. I've been wondering if it would ever show up on this blog.

I can't figure out why so many conservative Christians are taken with this. Believe me, as a man who's not happy about turning 30 this month and still being unmarried, I only wish it were true. But I have eavesdropped on too many conversations between single twentysomething women while waiting for class to start (in the postbaccalaureate premedical program I attend) about their plans for the weekend (which bar or club they'll be going out to), the next year (making sure they get to backpack across Europe or go scuba diving in Australia before starting med school), or the rest of their lives (they don't want to get too serious with their boyfriends yet, they're not sure they ever want to have kids, etc.); I have read too many online discussions in which educated professional women proclaim that they never want to have children, or to have only 1 or 2, that they don't need a man to make them happy, or that it's backward and sexist, an attempt to "control women's sexuality," to claim that they shouldn't spend their early twenties bar-hopping and going home with a different guy every week, to believe that these people are doing anything other than exactly what they want to be doing.

I've seen the same attitude in Christian girls (except the sexual aspect is replaced by a desire to be totally devoted to service for God's kingdom, and often their "careerism" is a desire to do overseas missions.) There's no careerism attitude to see past, because there's nothing past it: that really is what's important to them. I've dated girls who claimed to want marriage, and could be married to me right now if they had been willing to say yes. They're still single. But, so the modern Christian wisdom goes, better to remain single for life than to marry "the wrong person."

I'm glad you really want marriage and family rather than a career, but you're one in a million.

 
At 11:06 PM, Blogger A. LaLande said...

Jake: birthdays should not be a depressing thing! Please have a happy one!

It sounds like you have had a hard time of it and I'm truly sorry that someone who wants to serve God by marrying and having a family should come up against so many obstacles.

God is not limited, however, and I'd like to (timidly) suggest something. What if you take the occasion of your thirtieth birthday to pour out your desires and longings to God? Pray boldly, as Candice has written, but pray humbly as well! I am sure that those of us on this blog will also join you in sincerely petitioning our Father in heaven.

In the meantime, here's another challenging question that my brother recently brought up that goes hand in hand with the education/career/single income argument: should MEN give up higher education or a more lucrative career in order to marry sooner and be with their family more?

I, too, had an extremely happy childhood on LESS than a single income! I tell my little brothers that we used to be so poor we once ate spaghetti for breakfast! (Okay, though a true example, it's not exactly typical!) But I also have an interesting perspective on this, since my Dad turned down promotions many times because family, not money, was more important. All of us remain eternally grateful for his decisions in that respect.

 
At 8:18 AM, Blogger Mike Theemling said...

In the meantime, here's another challenging question that my brother recently brought up that goes hand in hand with the education/career/single income argument: should MEN give up higher education or a more lucrative career in order to marry sooner and be with their family more?

Not necessarily. I don't have hard numbers to back this up (yet), but I suspect that for a man or woman the BEST place/opportunity to find a partner is in college where you can both "work" AND live near the opposite sex. However yes, the more lucrative careers tend to eat up more time and require more travel so it's something that men and women need to consider.

But like Jake said, women tend to be the ones resistant to marry right out of college rather than men (the entire "tied down", "self actualization", "career/God minded" arguments).

 
At 4:32 PM, Blogger Suzanne said...

My friends went to China last summer on a mission trip and the Chinese symbol for "woman" is actually a woman holding a broom, signifying housework. :) How's that for a cultural norm?

 
At 7:47 AM, Blogger Firinnteine said...

Apparently Candice isn't the only one who thinks Noer might accidentally have hit on something (even if he overemphasized relational economics and somewhat missed the point): http://headlines.agapepress.org/archive/9/72006c.asp

 
At 11:44 AM, Blogger Mike Theemling said...

Suzanne,

I thought that was the character for "wife" actually. I could be wrong.

 
At 9:10 AM, Blogger Firinnteine said...

Another woman dissects Noer's numbers:http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,213545,00.html

Not that his numbers didn't need questioning, but why doesn't someone just point out that the purely economic model is wildly inadequate to explain what marriage truly is?

 
At 2:48 PM, Blogger heather said...

Candice, I followed the link in your email here and I am happy to find such interesting, well-thought blogging. But then again, what else would I expect from you? Thanks, I've bookmarked you guys.

 

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