This coming March, my husband and I will welcome our first child into the world. The past four months have brought surprises around every corner, but none so surprising as the day I discovered the stereotypes that prevail in my own mind about women, mothers, and daughters.
Early one morning, my husband found me sobbing in our living room. He anxiously asked me what was wrong and I sobbed, "I'm going to be a terrible mother." The night before, during an inevitable bout of insomnia, I had happened upon the blog of a young mother living somewhere in middle America. This mother's blog was filled with accounts of life with her two daughters. Days spent contentedly making crafts together. Handmade Easter dresses and matching baskets. Little Princess mermaid parties complete with handmade mermaid outfits and pink party favors. Shopping and personalized embroidered clothing.
I've spent 23 of my 30 years pursuing some kind of education. I'm much more comfortable in lecture halls and libraries than I am in craft stores and at parties. So when I read this mother's blog, I was overwhelmed by the possibility I was not fit for motherhood. I don't like shopping. I don't like pink. I don't know the first thing about party favors. How in the world would I be competent to raise a daughter?
But when the emotion of the moment was over, I was shocked at the limited scope of my thinking. For a few hours, the motherhood I read about in that blog seemed to be the only way to raise a daughter. As someone who has chosen to devote her life to the study of leadership and women's experiences in leadership, I should have known better, but on first reaction, I didn't.
I think the same one-dimensional thinking can sometimes plague the way we approach ministry to women as well. Last year, Amy Simpson wrote a post titled, "Why I Don't Do Women's Ministry." She described the nature of women's ministries in our local churches, how they trend towards superficial activities rather than activities that foster deep spiritual growth. The response was overwhelming. While some women were angry with the description, it struck a chord of familiarity with many others. While some women viewed such activities as opportunities for community, others thought such activities were a waste of time. They desperately wanted more learning, more spiritual meat. Collectively they seemed to wonder, "Is this the only way to do women's ministry?"