Is a woman's most important work the care of her home and family? Or is she allowed ambition beyond her front door? The domestic scripts are changing today, and as 21st century women, we entertain new freedoms—even the privilege to ask these questions.
For those of us with a stake in the Mommy Wars (who do not return to work out of economic necessity), we are largely deciding our fates, not by convention or obligation, but by desire. We stay at home—or we choose career— because we want to. Desire is our new freedom. For many Christian women, it is also our fear.
What should Christian women want?
Like the majority of women today, I live at the intersection of work and family, even the work of family. I am a wife and mother, even now a writer—making the "rhetorical" questions of the Mommy Wars anything but rhetorical. They are not benign curiosities at which I play like a fascinated cat with her ball of string. The answers matter. What is my calling as a woman? Or better said, what does God require of me? The answers to these questions, theological in nature, beg to give meaningful shape to who I am and what I do. They are value-driven, even "teleological," if I may borrow an idea from James K.A. Smith. They mean to tell me what makes my life good. Is it children? Career? A complicated choreography of both?
I've spent the past 12 years of motherhood caught in the questions—and tangled by my desires. I have wanted to be a godly wife and mother. I have believed these to be God-valued callings. I have also wanted to write, a discipline begging something quieter than the spin cycle of home. The desires war. And I feel splintered.
What should I want?
In defense of desire
Desire is the earliest language we learn. It is primal. Babies cry for milk. They wail to insist upon sleep. Not yet one minute old, and each of us is instinctively fluent in the language of want. To want is to be human.
As Christian women, however, we often live disconnected from desire. Perhaps we fear the electricity of its truth, that it says something profound about our unedited selves. (Isn't that coveting?) Or maybe, somewhere along the way, we made what felt like a necessary agreement for faith. We would not want. Desire seemed like a self-serving project. So we abandoned it.
Apart from the intervention of grace, it is true we will fail the two greatest commands—to love God and love others—in favor of selfish self-interest. Desire is easily corrupted. But nowhere does God insist we amputate desire and sever this life source. Instead, we are asked to cultivate holy desire: to learn to love the lovely and to hate the despised. "Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways!" Renovate my heart's desires, the psalmist in Psalm 119 prays.