The Stay-at-Home-Daughter Movement

miranda the tempest
[The Tempest by Waterhouse]

My freshman year in highschool, I mentioned my dream to become a marine botanist to my best friend, our pastor’s daughter, and she laughed. “Don’t be ridiculous,” she said. “You can’t be a scientist. You have to be a keeper at home.”

Keeper at home.

It’s a phrase from the King James translation of Titus 2, and we interpreted it to mean that it was against God’s laws for women to be employed. Our church, however, took it one step further: if all a woman was allowed to be was a “keeper at home,” then it was utterly pointless for her to try to be anything else. Pursuing an education, or longing for a career, could do nothing but harm her with shattered dreams. For that reason, young women in our church were asked to be “stay-at-home daughters.”

I gave up my dreams. I sacrificed them on the altar of biblical womanhood, fervently believing that the only way I could be blessed by God was to follow the clear guidelines laid out in Scripture. I was committed to remaining at home until I was married, when my father would transfer his ownership of me to my husband, giving me away at the altar with his blessing after a brief, paternally-guided courtship.

Occasionally, a snatch of a dream would intrude. No, Samantha. My inner voice would be harsh, echoing my Sunday school teachers and pastor’s wife. Do not be tempted. That’s just the Devil trying to trick you away from God’s plan.

A few weeks ago, Rachel Held Evans asked if I’d be interested in writing about my experiences with the Stay-at-Home Daughter movement and how I eventually decided to go to college against everything I’d ever been taught. I agreed, and put together a post for her blog. You can read the rest here.

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  • Hello Samantha, I discovered your blog via Rachel Held-Evans, and I am so glad I did. I am looking forward to exploring your writings. 🙂

  • Sometimes your posts just break my heart, Samantha. Because it is great for you that you broke away, but I want to cry for the passionate, intelligent, amazing, idealistic, and interesting little girl that you were who was never allowed to dream. What kind of a religion intentionally steals the joy from may of its the children?

    I am sending my daughter off to college in a little more than a month for her freshman year. She wants to study marine biology, too.

  • Margaret

    So thankful you have begun to follow your dreams. so glad for where you are now. my prayers are with you as you continue the journey. thank you for sharing.

  • Mrs. Jones

    When I was a teenager, an older woman at our church asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. When I responded, “Be an attorney,” she told me I couldn’t do that AND be a Christian. I didn’t become a lawyer, but I became a secretary for a lawyer.
    Another woman told me I was sinning by cutting my hair short.
    Our preacher told us in a sermon that we shouldn’t go to college. 25 years later I’m still trying to finish college.
    People like this are damaging, and it has taken a lifetime for me to get that stuff out of my self-esteem. I will never allow my daughter to be around them. Fear-based, controlling Christianity isn’t what Christ modeled.

  • Heather

    I love Rachel Held Evans so much – so glad you did a post there. I discovered your blog several months ago through hers.

  • liz

    To be clear, her parents encouraged her college education.

  • liz

    Despite the glaring looks from the pastor if the church we left, far too late.

  • Beautifully written. What I find saddest is when these stay at home daughters, when questioned, say, ‘Well, this is what I felt led to do.’ Well I’m sorry but I don’t think so. If you have never known anything else, and are not allowed to experience anything else, then you are not led. You are brainwashed.
    I used to think that I just wanted to be a stay at home mum. Then I moved to the city by myself and hung out with wacky people while attending university. Although I would still love to have kids, I’ve realised there’s more to life than that. Indeed, I think I’ll make a better mother for having experienced some of the world.

  • AndyJack

    Samantha, I am so glad I read this post! You may not remember, but a while back we had a little back-and-forth discussion about the PCC issue. Well, I agree with everything you have written in this post. Interestingly I may be the most unexpected person to say that. Growing up in a Cuban home and being a very traditional Independent Baptist- I don’t care for the fundamental label either by the way. My wife is not a stay at home mom. She has a degree, and teaches second grade. I love that she went to school. I love that she works. We get to work together, and the second income ain’t bad either. My wife is also a mother, and I don’t find her career a hindrance at all.

    But, I’ll focus on the education part. I could never have married someone who didn’t love learning as much as I do. She is informed, and can think. In fact, we don’t always agree, which if you ever watched Ricky Ricardo on T.V. you know that means it gets loud in my house, even when we are talking about political theory or theology. I love it! So a big Amen from me! Sorry for the poorly written post, but frankly I was just so very excited I could agree.

  • AndyJack

    Forgive me, I cut myself off mid sentence. Cuban culture tends to be very traditional, and male dominated.

  • You are an inspiration. Despite all the road blocks and lack of support from your home church, you pursued college, pursued education, and in some ways pursued some of your dreams. You did not let their…ignorance change your mind. Perhaps ignorance is bliss, perhaps it isn’t even ignorance but willfully choosing not to accept the fact that the idea of a stay at home daughter, or even the desire for it, is not something that many in the world can afford. While my family were fundamentalism in many ways, one thing I am grateful for, despite our rocky relationship, is that they always encouraged me to go to school and have an ability to support myself, perhaps more from practicality than anything else. Even though my female parent stayed at home much of my life, when it become financially impractical, she went out and got a job and put my youngest sibling in daycare. It did not lessen her, instead it showed that she knew the financial stability of her family was more important than any antiquated belief of what a woman’s role should be.

  • Simone Maigret, Ph.D

    Sisters – check out the life and works of Dr. Katherine Bushnell. Exposed the way translations of the Bible perpetuate and intensify the subjugation of women. Her bio at Boston Univ. School of Theology website:
    Her biblical treatise – God’s word to women http://godswordtowomen.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/gods_word_to_women1.pdf