This article was published in The Mother's Companion Volume 4, Number 2 (March/April 1998) and is copyrighted. This is the most widely read and possibly the most important article I have written.
Woman to Woman
I set aside the medical research article I have been reading as I have rocked and nursed one-year-old Timothy to sleep, and turn out the light. The house is dark, and quiet. The children are asleep. My husband, Gerald, will soon be in from the office.
I carry Timothy, asleep but still attached, to my bed. I slip beneath the quilt while gently holding him to my breast. In a few moments I am settled, cuddled comfortably with my baby beside me. He is still nursing as he sleeps. I see him faintly in the dark. I feel him breathing against me. I smell his baby sweetness. I hear his soft, contented sighs.
Normally I drift off quickly---nursing is a natural relaxant---but tonight sleep won't come. I am deeply disturbed by what I have been reading about these past several months. Soon my cheeks are wet with tears.
I am silently weeping for the appalling destruction of womanhood and motherhood in our culture and in our churches. I am weeping for women with an empty nest at age thirty-nine; their fertility surgically destroyed; their hormones artificially regulated; their physical and emotional health in shambles. I am weeping for infants left to cry alone in a darkness they do not understand; wooden bars in place of mother's warm flesh; inert rubber to suckle in place of her living breast; the smell of butadiene and detergent in place of her God-given scents. I am weeping for one and a half million pregnancies terminated by abortion in the United States each year---one and a half million motherhoods which will never be. I am weeping for the little children, herded together into day-care centers, the economics carefully calculated, each apportioned their proper square footage like turkeys on a turkey ranch, and full of penicillin and streptomycin like them too. I am weeping for one million marriages per year rocked and shattered by divorce, children as flotsam on a raging sea.
Mothers cheated of their children; children cheated of their mothers.
Oh, Lord God, when will this holocaust of mothering end?
I have been reading, studying and researching about the womanly arts for well over twenty years. After I was married and before the birth of my firstborn I began to read every book I could get my hands on. The subjects were pregnancy, birthing, breastfeeding, and mothering. I was educating myself for the next stage of my life. I wanted to make wise, informed choices. I knew mothering was too important to leave to trial and error.
My self-imposed education has never let up. But today my book knowledge has been rounded out and overshadowed to a large degree by on-the-job experience. Gerald and I now have nine children, ranging in age from one year to young adult. Yes, they are all ours, and yes, we plan to have more, should the Lord so bless.
Over the past six months I have focused my reading on materials related to parenting style. I must state up front that I have felt compelled to do this out of a responsibility to you, my readers and sisters in the Lord, rather than from any native desire on my part. The topic is controversial at present, and controversy is antithetical to a mother's heart and far removed from my vision and purpose in writing The Mother's Companion.
But the mail I have been receiving has revealed much turmoil regarding this topic at present. Many of you are confused and looking for advice. Some of you are feeling resentment for having followed a certain style only to find out later that it was quite wrong. Others of you are being caused to wonder if another style than you have been using might work better. Some of you are upset to see a different view from that which you embrace being promoted and evidently endorsed by your churches. Many indicators are signaling confusion and hurt. I feel a responsibility to do whatever I can, before the Lord, to help quell the confusion, to help heal the hurts, and to forestall further damage to you and your homes.
I have read (or reread) over a dozen books in my recent investigation of this topic. In addition I have read a number of medical research articles cited by the authors of these books to check the accuracy of their use of professional sources. I have also sampled newsletters, Christian magazine articles, and a number of general circulation items discussing this issue. A bibliography of all but the general circulation items can be found at the end of this article. I have also made free use of one additional resource---I have spent many, many hours in discussion of all these materials, dissecting their arguments, with my logical, science-trained (Ph.D.) husband.
I must confess that I have been appalled by some of what I have read. I suspect my reaction here has been similar to what I might naturally expect of a college mathematics professor should I undertake to write a college calculus textbook---I having dropped out of math early in high school to save everybody concerned much frustration and embarrassment. Here was theory run amuck.
In the present article, however, I do not wish to focus on any of the theories propounded or advocated by these authors. Nor do I wish to report on the integrity (or lack thereof) of the arguments which they have advanced
in support of their views. All of this is important and profitable in its own way; my investigation has certainly been an eye-opener for me. But there is something more foundational which I want to get at. I want to pass on to you who are Christian women a piece of wholesome biblical wisdom. I am confident that if you will heed the Bible in this one thing then the controversy will largely cease, the hurts will begin to heal, your confusion will fade away, and your home will be spared much pain.
Titus had been sent on a difficult assignment by the apostle Paul. It was a temporary assignment to the island of Crete in the Mediterranean; Paul expected Titus to complete it in sufficient time to join him at Nicopolis, on the mainland of Greece, where they would spend the winter (Titus 3:12). Titus would be acting as the apostle Paul's representative in Crete---acting in Paul's stead---on this assignment.
The assignment was to "set in order what remains, and appoint elders in every city'' (Titus 1:5). In modern terms we would say that Titus had been sent to organize the fledgling churches throughout Crete.
This was no easy assignment. Cretans were not an easy people to work with---they were not predisposed to godliness. Indeed, they had been characterized by a spokesman of their own race as "always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons'' (Titus 1:12). We cannot dismiss this assessment as overblown prose, for the Word of God assures us, "This testimony is true'' (Titus 1:13).
We are given a glimpse of some of the difficulties Titus faced within these fledgling churches in the opening chapter of the book of Titus. We learn that he would encounter "many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach, for the sake of sordid gain'' (Titus 1:10--11).
These verses inform us that Titus had to deal with rebellious men---men whose natural bent was to lead an insurrection against godly authority if they could manage it. He had to deal with empty talkers---men who could spout a dozen "facts'' a minute to support their zany ideas and erroneous theories, but whose "facts'' were based on nothing more than thin air. He had to deal with deceivers---men who fashioned arguments which seemed to make sense and looked good on the surface, but these arguments had been deliberately crafted with only one goal in mind: to make sure the listener would arrive at the desired conclusion. These men cared little or not at all for the truth. Their goal was "sordid [i.e., filthy, squalid] gain'': to win the argument, to impress everybody, to be a big name, to be in charge, to have a following, to make a lot of money. And they were unconcerned that their teaching was "upsetting whole families''.
To deal with these people successfully would require not only a firm hand, but also a wise plan. The book of Titus details that plan.
It was an organizational plan. It involved job descriptions and it prescribed roles and rules of conduct in six categories: overseers (or elders, who would lead the churches), older men, older women, young women, young men, and bondslaves.
I think we would be quite wrong to suppose that the plan given in Titus was unique to Crete. Indeed, reflections of it and elaborations upon it in application to other cultural contexts can be seen in some of Paul's other letters. I think we must ultimately regard it as the Holy Spirit's plan for the body of Christ---as a plan not only for ancient Crete, but for God's people at all times and in all places. It was a plan equal to the depravity of mankind in ancient Crete; and it is a plan equal to the depravity of mankind in modern America.
We do not need to look at the whole plan for the present purpose. It is only the transmission of the womanly arts within the church body which interests us here. Here is the relevant portion of the plan.
Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips, nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored. (Titus 2:3--5.)
According to this plan, who was to teach the womanly arts? Who was to teach the young women how to love and be subject to their husbands, how to love their children, how to be sensible, how to be pure, how to be a worker at home, how to be kind within the home and to extend kindness from the home? It was the older women. The womanly arts were to be transmitted from the older women to the younger women.
Please note that no male was assigned this task. It does not appear in the overseers' (pastors') job description. It does not appear in the older men's job description. It does not appear in the young men's job description. It does not appear in the bondslaves' job description.
The pattern for the church specified to Titus was that the womanly arts should be transmitted from godly older women to the younger women in the church---male involvement in this process is conspicuously absent from this plan.
When we look at the makeup of men and women the wisdom of this arrangement is clear.
Men and women are different in their areas of weakness. We women, the Scriptures teach, are easier targets of deception and beguilement then the men are (1 Timothy 2:11--14). It was no accident that the serpent singled out Eve in that first beguilement in the garden.
Meanwhile, men appear especially subject to lustful temptations in the areas of sex, power, and money. That is why history furnishes many examples of kings who had many wives, and few examples of queens who had many husbands, and why the world conquerors of history have been, without notable exception, males.
I think it is unnecessary to elaborate much on this. What is likely to be the outcome if you place older males, subject to lustful temptations, in a church Sunday school class with young females, subject to beguilement, and ask the males to lead in a discussion of love, sex, and how to nurse a baby? Would you want your daughter to be in attendance? The plan given to Titus---that the older women should teach the young women the womanly arts---exhibits some obvious wisdom doesn't it?
But there is much more wisdom in this plan than just that associated with the peculiar weaknesses of the sexes. Beyond the obvious impropriety of male involvement one must question the value of male instruction in the womanly arts. The simple question is: What do men really know about the womanly arts anyway?
What man has ever birthed a baby? What man has ever nursed a child? What man has ever related as a mother to a child for even one day, let alone twenty years? What man has ever or will ever fathom the intricate complexity of God's design in woman, and the urges and emotions, unique to us, which God has built into our very beings that we might naturally and easily and yet with a profound skill which defies textbook description or explanation, nurture the next generation for Him?
Is it not obvious that men do not know, and that they cannot know? Is it not clear that they are not even equipped biologically to know in any experiential way what they would pretend to teach as experts?
The simple wisdom of God's pattern for the transmission of the womanly arts in the church is so plain it is a little difficult to imagine how it manages to be so routinely overlooked and so flagrantly flaunted in Christian circles today. How is it that from before Dr. Spock on down to the present time many Christian women have been looking to men to teach them how to mother? And how is that more than one man has been able to make a name for himself and a comfortable living besides by doing so?
The fact is that God has given men and women different roles in creation. That is why He has designed them so differently (have you noticed?). Man is in no better position to tell woman how to carry out her created role than she is to tell him how to carry out his. Male and female are two highly specialized expressions of mankind, and this created specialization prohibits anything even approaching expertise on the part of either in the other's created sphere.
The Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia notes under the topic of Woman:
The Hebrew word 'ishsh(a), "woman, wife,'' is thought to be derived from a root -n-sh "to be soft, delicate.'' While it is similar to Hebrew ish, "man,'' there is an intentional contrast in the meaning, for ish seems to come from a root -y-sh, "to be strong''. ...
It is important to recognize that when God created mankind (Hebrew 'adam), when He made human beings in His image, He created them both male and female, not one or the other. Therefore the image of God appears equally in man the male and woman the female, and the peculiar personality characteristics of each sex are needed fully to mirror the nature of God. The very word 'ishsha for "woman'' suggests her special God-given sensitivities and gifts in the emotional realm. These serve to enhance mankind. Woman has a special sensitivity to human needs which enables her to understand intuitively the situations and feelings of other people.
(John Rea, "Woman,'' Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, ed. Charles F. Pfeiffer, Howard F. Vos, John Rea (Chicago: Moody Press, 1975), 1817.)
Yes we females are specially equipped inside and out for the job of nurturing people. The males, try as they might, are just not built right for this, either inside or out.
When a man fails to recognize this distinction and attempts to impose his male outlook and methods within the female sphere of creation he transgresses the boundaries of his own created sphere and places himself in peril before the Lord, his Maker. That is why, for example, the apostle Peter says in 1 Peter 3:7, "You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow-heir of the grace of life, ''so that your prayers may not be hindered'' [my emphasis].
Let's suppose a young woman goes to her pastor for advice on how to deal with her crying baby. Since this falls in the category of teaching women "how to love their children'', the young mother is unwittingly asking this male whom she respects to fill the shoes of an older woman for awhile. If he is wise (and wishes to preserve his dignity) he will follow the biblical pattern and promptly direct her to an experienced older woman.
If, on the other hand, he lacks wisdom, he will probably fail to see that this topic is, according to Titus, outside his domain. He graciously tries his best to help her (perhaps a bit reluctantly---after all he has more important things to do). Since he is coming at the problem as a man, he reasons it out as a man and gives male advice. How does he feel when he hears a baby crying? He wishes the mother would take the child to the nursery and stop disrupting the worship service, of course. He doesn't stop to wonder why the baby might be crying or whether it might be in need of anything. He isn't naturally keyed in to the needs of the baby you see---God didn't make him that way.
It doesn't bother him too much if a baby cries, as long as he doesn't have to listen. The "solution'' is thus perfectly obvious to him. He tells the distraught mother, "Just put the baby in it's crib, close the door, and go somewhere where you won't have to listen to the child. He can't cry forever you know. When your baby is done crying then he can rejoin the rest of the family and nobody's peace will be disturbed.''
Now I must point out here that this "solution'' will work---after a fashion. It is indeed true that babies cannot cry forever. Once the baby reaches the point of physical exhaustion he will necessarily stop crying.
This "solution'' leaves much to be desired however. Let me point up just one objection, so as not to interrupt my example too severely.
In all my years of mothering I have never yet encountered a baby who cried for any other reason than that they had a need of some sort---to be changed, to be fed, to be comforted, etc. Every indication is that God gave babies the ability to cry so that they would have some means of communicating their needs to those responsible for their care. So this "solution'' is like suggesting to the mother that the next time she is woken up by the insistent beeping of the smoke alarm outside her bedroom door, she should put a pillow over it so she won't have to listen to it and so she can get back to sleep---the battery can't last forever, you know.
But the mother at this point raises an objection of her own. She says, "But it tears me up inside when my baby cries. I don't want my baby to cry.''
Being a man, he is very ill-equipped to understand what the mother is saying here. He is as unfamiliar with her mothering emotions as a man born blind is with light. But he has been trained in theology and he knows that people are born with a sin nature. So he finds it very easy to conclude that the baby knows it is tearing its mother up and that it is using this knowledge to manipulate its mother and get its own way. From this point on the idea that the baby is simply trying to communicate a basic need and that God has given the mother these feelings because He wants her to meet that need would have little fascination for him even if someone were to mention it---the mother's problem has suddenly taken on cosmic spiritual dimensions. He is a male, and it is a holy war which he now sees.
He says, "He is trying to control you. You must ignore your feelings and use your head! If you love your son you will not give in to him. Crying never hurt anybody; in fact it's probably good for his lungs. You need to get control now, or the consequences could be severe for the future.''
This is a man teaching how to mother from a male perspective. He has done the best he can with the knowledge he has, but, unfortunately, he does not realize that he has left His God-ordained sphere and that, as a result, he is way out of his depth. He does not understand that because of a certain congenital blindness to the womanly arts common to all males his ideas are falsely premised and his conclusions are far from the truth. He is unaware that his "help'' will only hurt.
See the mothers bringing their children to Jesus in Mark 10:13. Witness the disciples, so full of male propriety, so protective of their Master's cause, rebuking the mothers and the children and sending them away. See Jesus, in Mark 10:14, ''indignant'' with His disciples for this action. (The dictionary tells us that to be indignant is to be moved to anger because of something unjust, unworthy, or mean.)
These disciples were fine, god-fearing men for the most part. I'm sure they meant no harm. But they understood neither the mothers' hearts nor the children's hearts nor even their own Master's heart in this matter.
Now, let's suppose this same young woman goes to a Titus 2 older woman in her church and asks how to deal with her crying baby. The older woman will tell her (and love doing it!) about what she did with her twelve children when they were babies. She chuckles over memories of hours of sleep lost while rocking sick babies so they wouldn't cry---she couldn't stand to hear them cry either. She reassures the mom that the baby is crying for a reason, and that it is wholesome and right that his crying should bother her.
She takes out her Bible and reads, "Can a woman forget her nursing child, and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you''. (Isaiah 49:15.) Then she talks about Moses when he was hid by his mother in a wicker basket in order to protect him from Pharaoh's edict. When Pharaoh's daughter opened the basket "she saw the child, and behold, the boy was crying. And she had pity on him...'' (Exodus 1:6).
She says to the frustrated mother, "Don't worry, dear. Your heart-felt reaction of concern and pity for your baby is a normal womanly reaction that has been felt by women since Eve. God made you that way. Pick up your little baby son when he cries. Rock him, nurse him whenever he wants to, soothe him until he stops crying. It is no accident that you both feel better when you do this. Carry him in a sling close to you if that will comfort him. You won't spoil your baby. You can never give a baby too much love. He's not trying to control you---not at this wee size. Relax. Cuddle up with your baby. Put him to sleep in your arms. Take him to bed with you and get a good night's sleep. I raised all of my children that way, and they rarely cried. My mother raised her eleven that way too. We all turned out fine...''
Dear sisters, when we depart from the God-ordained pattern of instruction specified in Titus---of women teaching women the womanly arts---we open ourselves to the depredations of "rebels, empty talkers, and deceivers''. When we open our homes and our churches to male "experts'' to teach us the womanly arts we are departing from God's plan and inviting the destruction of our families.
Unfortunately, women and churches in America have been routinely doing just this since early in the 1900's. And the result has been devastating to womanhood and motherhood in this land.
It is not an exaggeration to say that never in any culture or in any time has God's design for women come to be so thoroughly abused and perverted as it is in modern America. It is not easy to show this to women today. The abuse and perversion has become so completely pervasive as to make it seem "normal''. But let me gently try.
How many American women will go to their graves with their female organs still in place? Is this what God planned for women? How has God's design of the female body, which served its God-ordained purpose so admirably for thousands of years, right up into a woman's old age, come to routinely require such radical medical "help'' in modern America? And have you noticed that God's design for childbirth doesn't seem adequate in modern America any more either for some strange reason? Now one in five women must be cut open to get the baby out.
Can all these surgeries really be necessary? Is God's natural design really as inadequate as all that? The Bible teaches that we are "fearfully and wonderfully made'' (Psalm 139:14). Can we really believe that man improves on God's physiological design of woman by cutting out her sexual organs at any stage in her life? Can we really believe that the surgical birth has no negative consequences for mother and child relative to natural birth---that the passage of baby through the birth canal, so seemingly difficult for both baby and mother, was designed by God with no benefits to either baby or mother in mind? Do we women enjoy coming beneath the surgical knife? Or are we simply reaping what our mothers and grandmothers have sown by their failure to preserve the womanly arts and female sphere of creation free of male encroachments?
What are we to do? Please note that I am not suggesting that we women need to rise up and silence the rebels, the empty talkers, or the deceivers. That is hardly a woman's role---it is not part of the job description in Titus of either the older women or the younger women. The action which we need to take is to bring ourselves into line with God's plan.
That means the older women need to take up their God-given responsibility to "teach what is good'' in the fear of the Lord. Have you raised many children for the Lord? Then you are obviously the real expert in child-rearing, and the body of Christ needs your expertise to be transmitted to the next generation. Do you have a passion for the young mothers and their children? Know that the Lord has given you that passion. Do not wait for your pastor to come to you---go to him and tell him you would like to start a Sunday class for young mothers and their babies. Invite other older women with similar expertise and vision to help you. Step out in faith knowing that this is God's plan for your church. You will not need to run a scintillating show---the young mothers will be so happy just to not have to sit in the parking lot with their noisy babies by themselves any longer. Just remember your Titus 2 mission, and do not be deterred from it.
It also means the young women need to seek out godly, older Christian women and place themselves under their instruction. It means you must not look to the pastor, or your male doctor, or any other male figure for instruction in mothering and the womanly arts. It means you need to turn a deaf ear to the male voices who would instruct you in the womanly arts---how often to nurse your infant, where and how they should sleep, how you should train them. These male voices do not conform to the pattern which God has stipulated for our protection in Titus 2. No matter how godly they may seem, and no matter how good may be their motives, they are operating outside the plan and pattern which God has given to the church. For your own protection and the protection of your home you must not listen to them; you must not attend their classes, you must not buy their books, you must not subscribe to their newsletters, you must not watch their videos or listen to their tapes. You place yourself outside of God's plan and you place your family in peril if you do so. Place yourself instead at the feet of older women and learn the art of mothering from them.
I am well aware that it may not be easy for you to find older women who know the traditional womanly arts these days. Male dominance within the female sphere of creation has been much in vogue in America for at least seventy years, and it has decimated the ranks of Christian women familiar with traditional mothering skills, even in the churches. I know many Christian women of my mother's generation who were entirely beguiled by "modern, progressive'' male mothering theories, and who practiced them religiously. You may have to search for some time before you will find an older woman who has retained traditional mothering skills in raising her own children and who is, therefore, able to teach the womanly arts to you. Do not give up. If you will honor God by your desire to work within His revealed plan, He will honor you. Meanwhile, avail yourself of books and materials on mothering which have been written by experienced Christian mothers. I especially enjoyed rereading the book Heart and Home: A Reaffirmation of Traditional Mothering by Debra Evans, and perhaps you would find this a good place to start.
Dear sister, I ask you humbly and solemnly, from whom have you been learning the womanly arts? I exhort you, for the sake of your husband and children and for your health and the health of your home, to put male-invented mothering theories and male-dominated mothering materials out of your home and out of your life. I adjure you, by the Word of God, to seek out, learn, and put into practice the traditional womanly arts being taught and modeled by godly, older, experienced Christian women. This is God's plan which He has established because of His love for you. The Scriptures teach no other. Let no one beguile you; let no one move you from God's wise plan.
Items in this list are arranged alphabetically by the first author's last name.
Harriet Connor Brown, Grandmother Brown's Hundred Years: 1827--1927 (New York: Blue Ribbon Books, 1929).
Debra Evans, Heart and Home: A Reaffirmation of Traditional Mothering (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1988).
Marjorie F. Elias, Nancy A. Nicolson, Carolyn Bora, and Johanna Johnston, "Sleep/Wake Patterns of Breast-Fed Infants in the First 2 Years of Life,'' Pediatrics 77.3 (March 1986): 322--329.
Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam, On Becoming Baby Wise (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Books, 1995).
Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam, On Becoming Baby Wise Book Two (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Books, 1995).
J. Groswasser, M. Sottiaux, E. Rebuffat, T. Simon, M. Vandeweyer, I. Kelmanson, D. Blum, and A. Kahn, "Reduction in Obstructive Breathing Events During Body Rocking: A Controlled Polygraphic Study in Preterm and Full-Term Infants,'' Pediatrics 96.1 (July 1995): 64--68.
Growing Families International, The Community Perspective: The Ministry Newsletter of Gary & Anne Marie Ezzo Volume 3, No. 1 (Winter 1998).
L. Emmett Holt, Jr., The Care and Feeding of Children (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1929).
Brenda Hunter, In the Company of Women (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Books, 1994).
Urs A. Hunziker and Ronald G. Barr, "Increased Carrying Reduces Infant Crying: A Randomized Controlled Trial,'' Pediatrics 77.5 (May 1986): 641--648.
La Leche League International, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, 3rd ed. (Franklin Park, IL: La Leche League International, 1981).
Betsy Lozoff and Gary Brittenham, "Infant care: Cache or carry,'' The Journal of Pediatrics 95.3: 478--483.
Roy Maynard, "The Ezzos know best: Controversial parenting curriculum is sweeping the church,'' World (May 25/June 1 1996): 18--19.
Donna Otto, Between Women of God (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1995).
Edwards A. Park and Howard H. Mason, "Luther Emmett Holt (1855--1924),'' Pediatric Profiles, ed. Borden S. Veeder (St. Louis: The C. V. Mosby Company, 1957), 33--60.
Michael and Debi Pearl, No Greater Joy (Pleasantville, TN: The Church at Cane Creek, 1997).
Michael and Debi Pearl, To Train Up a Child (Pleasantville, TN: The Church at Cane Creek, 1994).
William Sears, Christian Parenting and Child Care (New York: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1985).
William Sears, SIDS: A Parent's Guide to Understanding and Preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (New York: Little Brown and Company, 1995).
Patricia Stuart-Macadam and Katherine A. Dettwyler, editors, Breastfeeding: A Biocultural Perspective (New York: Aldine De Gruyter, 1995).
H. Clay Trumbull, Hints on Child Training (Eugene, OR: Great Expectations Book Company, originally published 1890).