Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism

The army of stay-at-home-authors

18 Comments

I’m fascinated by a realisation I’ve made recently.

In order to ‘keep up’ with what’s going on and what’s new in the P/QF circles, I frequent a number of blogs to stay up to date. After all, I can’t sit here blogging about old news all day. I want to know what’s going on, and I want to be able to write about it.

I’m rather well-informed about the number of films, documentaries and books coming out, as well as blogs about new ideas in the VF/LAF/AR community, and on top of that, I like to know what’s going on in the SAHD circles. And I realized something –

The incredible obsession stay at home daughters have with writing books. I do not want to openly bash young women here, or put them down in any way, hence I’m not linking any of the young authors, but a little look around VF and similar insider pages will give you a good overview of what the young generation is doing – though I don’t think I can avoid naming the very popular names.

I find that there are two types of stay at home daughters. On one hand, there’s the daughters of large families, often lower class, whose parents have no significant higher education and who will never get higher education themselves. The working class QF. As a daughter of this social group, I grew up admiring those young ladies writing books. How did they do it? I had no time. I wouldn’t know what to write about in the first place. And even if I did,  had no skill, no idea, no anything. I simply couldn’t express what I wanted to express. I know many daughters like me, who felt writing was a dream so far out of reach that it seemed like a completely different world. But we were still involved in the young stay at home writers fad – we swallowed up those books, discussing them. They were written by young women like us, or so we thought, who went through the same problems.

This, however, was a major illusion, I can see that now. There are no books, literally, not a single one, written by a daughter who, cheerfully, goes through the same as young QF girls from very large families. They simply don’t have the time do write, or the skill. Those masses of books are written by a completely different society.

And that’s the second group of stay at home daughters – the ones from middle and upper class families, often with a significantly smaller number of children. These girls, and I’m not saying this in a negative way but rather in an observant way, have less to worry about. Their parents don’t have to struggle with finances, they don’t have to watch their 10 siblings all day, they are usually better educated or even take some college classes. Of course, some still come from very large families, but they are rare (take the Duggars). Their lives at home provide many options to learn, to observe, for example the Bauchams, who travel quite a bit, or the Botkins. Their parents are educated, providing a better home education. And at the same time, because there aren’t that many children the women have to take care of, they have much more time on their hands. Time they can use to think, to express, to write.

I’m getting the feeling that many of these stay at home daughters are actually bored with their lives. I feel like they’d love to change some things, they just can’t, being caught in an environment that tells them to spend their lonely days at home. They write not necessarily because they have something to say but because it is the only form of expression available, because they are unsatisfied with their calm lives which do not allow to go to a real college, so instead they talk about their lives and their struggles. Many of these books are about single years and how to cope with being single.

I don’t want to sound high and mighty, but the lower class daughters seem to struggle much less in this aspect. I’m not saying the desire isn’t there, but when your days are filled to the max, you simply do not have time to contemplate marriage and love all day. Some lower class daughters even fear getting married because they feel like they’d be abandoning their siblings, their parents, that they are so needed at home that everything will fall apart once they marry. In a situation like that you simply don’t spend your days dreaming of prince charming. You may spend a day dreaming of not scraping old food from the floor, though.

The fad, the dream of being an author, seems to provide something these rather educated young women desperately need: Recognition of their abilities, which they certainly have, a voice in a world that tells them they must be quiet, and outlet to make a difference when the only difference you’ll ever make is the number of children you’re able to bear. It’s a form of secret intellectuality, one that they’re not supposed to have, so they mask it with books about how to fill your empty days helping a parents who don’t really need your help.

And finally, I often feel like there is a lot of anger in those books. Sometimes, I feel like “I am miserable in my cage, so I’m explaining you how to make a cage like this yourself, so we can be miserable together” is written between the lines. The books are often full of radical, extremist views, doing nothing but putting down women who have chosen a different life, telling them how much God hates women who try to make things work by themselves.

Do we really need more books on singleness? More books on what to do with all that spare time? And, even more interesting, what does that say about a generation of young women?

18 thoughts on “The army of stay-at-home-authors

  1. if it will make you feel better, there is a whole group of woman out in the world who are also overwhelmed and questioning the life that society told them would make them a superwoman….the woman who both has a career and children. they work under extreme rat race pressure then go home to children they are too tired to take care of. I am not talking about higher class mothers, they can afford a nanny, but the middle to lower class woman, often either divorced or never married and having to make it on one salary, perhaps govt. assistance to keep their kids fed and clothed. They bought into the lie that to be fulfilled a woman must have both career and children and guess who misses out on that lie- the kids. They practically raise themselves and often do not understand authority at all.
    After having read about QF/P/Gothard legalism all summer long, my eyes were opened to the prison legalism can make for a woman. But there is also another prison out there where women think they must, in order to be fulfilled, have it all, motherhood, career, college degree. And the pressures of keeping a 9-5 job are immense- lower wages than men for the same job, sexual harrassement, pressure to perform better, probation/firing for not meeting expectations, working extra hours, sometimes without pay.

    Just want you to know that it is not easy no matter what side of the fence you are on. I myself, was put on probation 2nd day of the school year, all because of the sub, who did a great job while I was out getting hip replacements, was held up to me as the new standard. I had better be just like her, teach like her, do it the way she did it or I would be moved to another assignment next year. I did nothing wrong, I was crippled with hip problems, which slowed me down a lot, but followed state mandates on what to teach, got my lesson plans and work assignments ready but because she was the former teacher of the principal, and she had more freedom to teach then all this went to looking like I was not doing my jop. In the eyes of my authority, I did not measure up. I also got in trouble for following directions by leaving all lessons ready for the sub, which she chose not to use. I am choosing to retire rather than live in someone else’s shadow. So you see, legalism is everywhere.

    • What about fathers who have been convinced by “society” that they should have a career? Do they seriously think they can “have it all” by working and raising children? Obviously dad’s with jobs are abandoning their kids so they can feel fulfilled.

      • i was speaking from the traditional way of family life in 20th century USA… fathers have a job, moms stay at home, take care of kids and house. Growing up in the 60’s, I saw the change in the family as women’s “rights” emerged, I saw working mothers leave their kids at my house (my mom had a baby sitting agency) and saw the tiredness, confusion and down right frustration from both kids and moms, coming home after a day in the trenches, too tired to make dinner or do anything else. I married in 1975, when I came home from work there was still more work, cleaning house, make dinner, when my husband came home from work, he was done, sit down, watch tv, relax, etc.
        so i began to think, hmmm, women were tricked into doing an extra 8 hours of another type of job, besides the responsibility of house, kids, husband, etc. That is why I chose not to have children. I realized I could not do and be it all.

    • I have to agree with this. My cousin is of the class who can afford a nanny, both she and her husband work in a large city. She was saddened to have to leave her babies to return to her career. When her children become sick, she wants to be there for them, but she cannot skip work for weeks at a time. I do wonder how people can be happy to leave their small children in the care of a near-stranger all day. I grew up on a farm, and was homeschooled. My parents were never far away. The world of the city seems so odd and foreign to me.

      I’m not judging her, she enjoys her career, and I have nothing against women working. Many women, I’m sure, would go crazy being stay-at-home mothers. And men quite often do not get to spend as much time with their children as they would like.

      It’s just that society is so… Segregated. The children are separated from their parents, and the elderly are separated from everyone else. It seems unnatural. I read a book recently by psychologist Gordon Neufeld called Hold on to Your Kids. It explains the harm done to the child and society by peer attachment, and the absence of secure adult child relationships.

      The patriocentrists may not have a positive solution, but they are reacting to a real imbalance in our culture.

  2. Such true words, Lisa! I too was a homeschooled (and to church school for high school) SAHD until I was 21. Since my parents could only have three children by birth, they adopted four additional children. I love my younger siblings dearly, but some of them had serious behavioral issues that my parents naively thought they could handle with enough prayer and punishment. And of course it was up to the older daughters to keep the chaos from getting out of hand altogether. And, yes, the images of happy, well-dressed, affluent homeschoolers in the magazines was the stuff of fantasy. (This was in the 1990s before e-books and blogs even existed.)

    What I find particularly fascinating about your analysis, though, is how you explain this explosion of SAHD publishing. It reminds me of something I read in a literature course–that the success of women writers in past centuries was because of the cheapness of paper. In other words, it was the only form of expression that they had access to–a lot like the SAHDs you are writing about. The difference is that those women were typically advocating for more freedom, not less, for women.

    On a different note, I wanted to respond to esbee’s comment above– That sounds like a frustrating work situation for sure! However, my research suggests that the driving force behind most women in today’s workforce is not the lure of feminism as so many claim. Instead, it has more to do with the way that downsizing and outsourcing jobs overseas has driven down wages to the point that most families must have two wage-earners just to maintain their income level. Sure–for some women having a career is a choice. But for the vast majority, it is an economic necessity. I’m all for finding ways to relieve the pressures you’ve identified, but to be effective, I think we have to correctly identify the reasons for them.

    • Yes I think the situation is very similar to the romantic and victorian female authors – you shouldn’t forget that a good bunch of these exact authors are read by those SAHD, take, for example, the Bronte sisters, or Jane Austen. I think, considering how much ATI promotes picturesque victorian age and the beauty of the “queen of the house”, that this is exactly what the girls try to imitate, beautiful staying at home while writing stuff, because if the victorian women could do it, it’s allowed for us as well. The thing is, they believe that they ARE liberating women with their writing – fighting for the freedom that a woman need not “labor for another man” and not have the pressure to make a living is just one point they think means feminine freedom. They think they are actually writing in the tradition of Jane Austen who supposedly proclaimed exactly that image of womanhood (though today I disagree with that view). They try to return to writing in a way that has the end of the victorian era as a starting point in order to make up for the revolutionary texts of the 20th century, the disintegrated, crumbling world of literature which was scarred by the wars, leaving women struggling for dear life.
      Either way hehe yeah I just figured it was weird to see so many SAHD e-publish and stuff.

      • Great points, Lisa! I agree with you, although at the same time it blows my mind a little since most of my exposure to romantic and Victorian women’s lit came much later through a decidedly 2nd-wave-femininist lens. Apparently they aren’t reading much of Mary Wollstonecraft or Elizabeth Cady Stanton, though.🙂

        It’s so interesting to read these comments because I too credit reading for making me think and then giving me the confidence to see past our exclusivity. And then when I finally did get to college, I majored in English (literature) where I actually read the original sources (not the one-liners cherry-picked by the likes of David Barton, et al.) and saw an entirely different vision of history.

        But as heatherjanes implied below, this “intellectual” activity on the part of SAHDs is more hopeful than lamentable. For most of us, at some point the platitudes and the formulas wear thin and the injustice of it becomes increasingly clear. We write our way into existence.

  3. Wow really great insight! I remember marveling at the ability of other young P/QF girls to write. I had a really close friend who wrote and finished tons of religious-themed novels while in her teens, I was always so impressed by her commitment and talent and ashamed of myself for never “making the time” to write like I wanted too. It never occurred to me that it might have something to do with class. She was from an upper-middle class family that believed in college education and had half as many kids as mine. Makes a lot of sense!

  4. So I read this with interest and think you are largely right, but compared it to my own experience, which I guess is kind of an “outlier.” I am the eldest in a homeschooled family of 10 and we were dirt poor, below the poverty line for even a family of just four, all of us kids sharing two rooms at one point. The education was terrible, except I learned how to read and then read a ton as an escape from the chaos. It’s amazing how much of an education you can get by just reading and mimicking the styles you see. It’s kinda like the difference between someone with a musical ear and a classically trained one. I kept a diary for years and also valued education as the only “out” I could see. Granted my reading material wasn’t very well censored, so all the reading I did made me to leave the lifestyle very young and thankfully I never wrote anything in support of it. I left so intensely that only recently I got to a place to start looking back and speaking out against it.

    • Of course there are always those “others”, those exceptions. It’s great to hear that you did get lots of reading materials. Maybe – just maybe – you have a natural talent for reading/writing?
      Nowadays I firmly believe that reading is something you must train, not something that comes naturally. You must train how to deal with texts in order to have fun reading. I mean, I never read that much simply because I didn’t feel like I understood much of it. I didn’t get “poetic” texts, or “classic literature”, whatever that may mean. I think if you read that type of text repeatly, you automatically pick up the tools you need, and best you start this at a young age, otherwise you end up like me, never really being interested in reading. My point of view was kind of “It’s not real anyway, so why waste my time?”. I’m glad I changed in this aspect and have become an avid reader. Now that I have more practice, I gain so much from reading just anything really.

      By the way, I just jumped over to your blog, great to see a fellow ex-QF blogger! Do you mind if I link it on my blog?

  5. I think I did have a natural talent of sorts as my Mom said she never really taught me how to read. She read me books out loud and soon I knew the words on sight. She thought it was weird, but now one of my nieces has pretty much done the same thing. She didn’t successfully teach any of my other siblings to read though, and the sister under me ended up getting intense professional tutoring at age 10 because my grandfather paid for it. He also mailed me books and then discussed them over the phone, making it a happy thing and something “real.” So I guess it was a mix of cultivation, opportunity, and natural inclination. Cultivation and opportunity are usually what’s missing in high-poverty situations.

    I also just wanted to say I don’t begrudge these SAHD girls their writing even if I thoroughly disagree. Some of them might later on come to use those writing skills to raise awareness of the birdcage they were in and how they were manipulated to perpetuate it. Literature and writing saved my life, for sure, and I am glad you were ultimately able to enjoy it too. 🙂 I also loved Jane Austin, could certainly relate somewhat, and found it empowering. The main characters were too cool to just have a role – they had to be people.

    Anyway, blogging is new for me, feel free to link, and I look forward to reading more of your stuff.🙂

  6. A professor of mine who studies eighteenth-century women’s lit just posted this quote on Facebook and I instantly thought of our thread here: ‎”‘Happy women do not write.’ Though this rule admits of many exceptions, still, in the main, it holds good. Happy women, whose hearts are satisfied and full, have little need of utterance.” –Catherine Hamilton (1892)

    Although the statement, taken in its entirety, is somewhat self-contradictory, it’s offers an interesting possible explanation for the army of stay-at-home-authors. 🙂

    • wow, what a great quote! thanks for coming back and posting it!

    • Hmm the number of suicides amongst creative writers would corroborate. And while I do write when I am happy, I have a preponderance of diary entries written when distressed.😄 So yeah, haha, it has truth to it, no doubt. Reminds me of Little Miss Sunshine, and the bit about Proust, though:

      Dwayne: I wish I could just sleep until I was eighteen and skip all this crap-high school and everything-just skip it.
      Frank: You know Marcel Proust?
      Dwayne: He’s the guy you teach.
      Frank: Yeah. French writer. Total loser. Never had a real job. Unrequited love affairs. Gay. Spent 20 years writing a book almost no one reads. But he’s also probably the greatest writer since Shakespeare. Anyway, he uh… he gets down to the end of his life, and he looks back and decides that all those years he suffered, Those were the best years of his life, ’cause they made him who he was. All those years he was happy? You know, total waste. Didn’t learn a thing. So, if you sleep until you’re 18… Ah, think of the suffering you’re gonna miss. I mean high school? High school-those are your prime suffering years. You don’t get better suffering than that.

  7. Love that scene for its ability to make meaning out of suffering without resorting to patronizing cliches!

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