Last weekend I spoke to Biola University on our recent book Coffee Shop Conversations and then in the evening on the “Myths of Gender.” For this latter talk, Dale and I shared the stage and preached about how men and women need one another.
This idea has been unpopular for hundreds (maybe even thousands) of years. That men need women isn’t very popular in the parenting philosophy that says little boys can be ruined by their mothers. Don’t want to be “overclose” right? Just think about it this way, is it positive or negative to call a girl “Daddy’s Little Girl”?
Okay, now what if you call a boy “Momma’s Boy”?
I particularly enjoyed our Question and Answer time with the students. Such great questions that have helped me think more.
One moment in the talk we were discussing the different ways men and women approach the world given the simple difference of their bodies. Due to my body’s shape, capabilities, size, strength I will walk down the street, shop, smile and speak differently than a man.
I told the audience that because we have a two month old baby my mind is constantly considering when I will be needed to nurse Finn, even while I’m juggling the next point in my talk and the powerpoint.
The men looked at Dale with curiosity when I said, “Dale isn’t thinking about any of that!”
“Nope!” he responded with a smile. The audience burst into laughter.
“But that is the challenge of being a woman,” I said, after they all quieted. “I have to press into God to ask him to show me the privilege and beauty of having a body that must be interrupted in a speaking event to feed my son.”
The women stared at me intently. Their eyes made me want to explore this privilege here with you.
But I wanted to “wear” Finn for several reasons.
1- I believe our talks benefit from me at Dale’s side and I do not want to give up on this benefit for our non-profit, but most significantly for our audiences, simply because we have a baby.
2- The absence of children from most places of business, religion, politics feels unnatural and in the end harmful to me. Have you noticed that we put children away? We do not see Senators or CEOs or models or professors with their baby WHILE WORKING, at least not very often. I’m reminded of a wonderful woman, Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazier Bhutto, who raised three children as she shepherded her country. From Claudia Preifus’ article in the New York Times, May 13, 1994,
“In all the world there cannot be another plane quite like the official jet of Bhutto. The front section is a kind of office-cum-nursery, jammed with toys, briefcases, newspapers, nannies and Bhutto’s children, Bilawal, 5, Bakhtawar, 4, and Asifa, 1. In the main cabin, political advisors, security commandos and generals are keeping an eye on the Prime Minister they cautiously support.
“Hello gentlemen . . . Hello, babies,” Bhutto calls as she enters the plane. It is both jarring and interesting to see soldiers saluting a woman with children on her lap.”
Children were permitted alongside this woman even as she accessed places of power.
3- Finn is at an age where he needs me, for food, for hydration, for warmth, for shelter, for affection. He also needs his father for all of these (except the food/hydration). To hold my son on my body while I speak indicates, I hope, my willingness to meet his needs even while others may not understand. In planning to babywear Finn, the chapel coordinator (a female student) was surprised but enthusiastic. “I don’t think we’ve ever had a speaker carry a baby on stage,” she said. That increased my nervousness, but made me all the more determined.
4- Even if it is easier to have someone watch Finn, so I can focus on my work, the task of inviting Finn’s distraction while attempting to speak is an example Dale and I could not pass up. We want the women and men in the audience (many future mothers and fathers) to consider the example of inviting a child into your work, into the public sphere. Because if more women were permitted, even encouraged to invite their children to work, the inequalities between men and women would begin to seriously evaporate. It is not marriage that hinders women from producing and enjoying careers, it is the insistence that children cannot be a part of real work, real life, real business. That is a myth I would like to challenge, in the few years and few opportunities I’m given. Babies are part of real life, they are as real as our own existence, and, as my wise cousin once said in response to my fears that Finn would wake up and interrupt,
“You should be fine, and if he does wake up and make noise, that is just part of real life! So you are really being real about your life as a mom.”
5- I do not see women and children side-lined in God’s program in Scripture. Instead, I see God excited about inviting children near him, even when the all-business agenda of his followers begged to differ. As Jesus said, “Permit the little children to come to me.” I find it strange that the founder of Christianity was so pro- children (even with their interruptions) but his followers are intent on assigning children to the nursery during our serious Sunday morning programmes.
In a wonderful new book celebrating Men and Women’s difference, Alice von Hildebrand writes,
“Not only are man and woman made for each other, not only do their complement each other, but, above all, their differences (which are not limited to the biological sphere) enable them to be partners with God Himself in creating new human persons” (p. 4 Man and Woman: a Divine Invention).
This mutual interdependence is not something easy to explain or to live. In a conversation with a Christian feminist last week, she suggested that true interdependence, making room for me to depend on you, while you make room to depend on me, cannot happen unless we are first independent.
I’m curious about what you think.
Why do men and women find it so difficult to depend on each other?
Must we first learn independence to interdepend?
*For a wonderful site on all the benefits and styles of baby-wearing, as well as the many options of baby-wearing carriers see my cousin’s site: www.frogmama.com
Image credit: www.frogmama.com