Friday, March 27, 2009

The Proverbs 31 woman

I've been thinking about this topic for a while, and I figured I might as well start this conversation now.

For people who are not familiar with this topic, proverbs is a book in the Bible and Proverbs 31 is a tribute to a "virtuous" woman. This lady takes care of her family and her home, she works in the field, she trades.....she's really very great, and she's the standard that Christian women look or should look to. Why do I care and why is this even an issue? well, because over the past few years I've read, heard and even participated in conversations that try to hash out what being a good christian woman looks like. And this debate gets interesting when it comes to the issue of whether a mother should hold a paying job.

There's the camp that says that no respectable woman, particularly a christian one, should work outside her home. Her sole business is to be a devoted mother and wife and be there when her kids and husband come home. Then there's the other camp that says that women should work as many hours and as hard as men, and of course, should be compensated as well as men. Then there are camps that fall somewhere between these two.

Clearly, I dont believe that my sole purpose as a christian woman is to only be a devoted mother and wife. If that was true, I wouldn't be spending so much time, effort and money in school. Most of my friends are probably also in the same camp as I, so this is probably not the best place for this debate. That said, I really would like to hear more from people in the other camp and about how they think about these things and what their justifications are. It's clearly not an easy thing to be a working mother and wife, but several women do it with varying levels of success and satisfaction as they define it.

So, I think it'd also be interesting to hear how women currently/plan to navigate such issues and also get the male perspective on what work/family/life balance looks or should look like. So people, please comment and let the conversation flow. I really would love to read your views.

8 comments:

  1. YOu would like to read my views really? I would think otherwise.

    Getting serious:
    For me, I dont see any dichotomy whatsoever btween being a career woman and being a proverbs 31 woman. The Proverbs 31 woman is the epitome of a VIRTUOUS woman, and not a DOCILE housewife. She is wise, strong, took care of her family and catered efficiently to the their needs (v. 11, 12 and 15, 21 and 24) but you know what many forget about the prov 31 women? That she is also a woman with a very strong business acumen, a woman who had a successful trading business and did business with traders from afar: See v.14 - She is like the ships of the merchant;she brings her food from afar. Or v.18 - She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night.

    Verses 16 and 24 also buttress the fact that Prov31 woman was not a mere stay-at-home-mom, she got on her two feet and used her hands to make some "kuli (money)."

    As a woman of her time, she did not have access to a lot, but what she did have the opportunity to do (as in merchandizing), she did it exceedingly well...so yep girl, she pretty much balanced her merchandize career with family life. And we all professional-women-soon-to-be-wives&mothers should take our cues from her.

    I love this woman. She is my role model, to say the least - and not to even forget that she was a fashionista (Prov 31 v. 22).

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  2. Like Omo Oba said, I don't see the dichotomy either. If anything, I see it as a woman's right to choose; stay at home only or business/work & take care of the home. The messed up thing is that the way the world is structured, women are having a hard time choosing and navigating.

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  3. one, what's up with the proverbs 31 man....seems like he is not carrying his fair share of the load - out at the city gates chillin' with his homies all day...i kid....

    two, i have always envied the proverbs 31 woman as well, but i have always felt uncomfortable with the idea that this particular scripture fosters the idea of the superwoman - one who can have it all - a fantastic career, a well-put together home, a fashionista as someone put it, and the ability to wake up on time everyday - all so effortlessly.....my more pessimistic side sees her more as the impossible ideal rather than reality for a lot of women, who despite their shortcomings are still loved by their families, but more importantly God

    and in regards to her being a career woman - i wonder if she chose that career herself or rather it was hoisted upon her because of the roles of women back then - and she just went with the flow. It was possibly more feasible to be a market trader back then as a woman then say a shoe maker, carpenter or tax collector. as the career gender roles between men and women become more blurred these days, i wonder how possible it is to hold on to the ideal of the perfect mother and wife when it runs at odds with pursuing traditionally male-dominated professions.

    what does the proverbs 31 woman look like today? Can the proverbs 31 woman be found in the stay-at-home mom who chooses to forgo chasing her career dreams or can the proverbs 31 woman be found in the powerful, but single, career exec who has achieved much but is regarded as nothing because of her lack of a husband or childlessness?

    While King Lemuel or whoever wrote Proverbs 31 had his own ideas of the perfect woman, God has and continues to use and love imperfect women who may not achieve that perfect balance proposed in proverbs 31.....

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  4. I am supposed to be taking a fast from blogville for the rest of the coming month! So all of you people holding out this apple of temptation, u had berra STOP!!!

    pyoo water, that "someone" was me or no? what you afraid of huh?

    But seriously, Nneoma, great point from the pesssimistic side of town. There are many underdogs in the bible, e.g. David, Peter, Esther, Jesus, etc etc but it seems like proverbs 31 is one ideal woman (superwoman as someone put it). But if that perfection is not what the Word of God itself is, then I have been missing a crucial point for a long time...the BIBLE IS THE IDEAL, and I can only strive to be like the prov 31 woman.

    Of course the question arises in practicality, how do we balance family and a career within a male-dominated world? And I think this is where KG's point on CHOICE comes in - a woman has the right to CHOOOSE what she wants to do; if I choose to stay home and take care of my family, that is my choice. If I choose to not have any children so I can pursue a career and rub shoulders with men, it is also my CHOICE - it doesnt mean that God hates me more or loves me any less because I have chosen not to have children.

    Paul never got married, yet, He is perhaps the most influential writer in the Bible. But does that mean we should all strive to be like Paul? hell no! It is this same Paul that also said (someone, help me quote) that whatever we choose to do, whether it is in abstaining from meat or from wine, then we should do so as long as we are right before the Lord. My point is we have a right to CHOOSE. And we sure have a right to choose whose life we want to emulate from the Bible...and like you said nneoma, God loves the imperfect woman EVEN AS SHE CONTINUES TO STRIVE for perfection. And Nneoma, you also raised an excellent point on where is the proverbs 31 man? And for real, where is He? However, one thing we have gatz to realize is that on that day (yea, you know what day I am talking about here!), God is not going to judge COUPLES together...he wouldnt ask for the prov 31 man to stand with the prov 31 woman. Nah, it would simply be the prov 31 woman standing alone with her Lord.

    So yea, the prov 31 woman sets high standards to live up to, no doubt...but again, we only STRIVE to be that PROV 31 woman - the ideal...the very epitome of virtue.

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  5. This is like preaching to the choir........

    Anyways, I do agree with you guys on most things you've said, so I wont re-state them.

    However, y'all talked about the Prov 31 woman as the ideal woman- a somewhat unreachable goal. But is it really unreachable? Don't we know mothers, aunts, friends etc etc who seem to be good wives, good mothers and good workers. So in that sense, I feel like its compleltely attainable, even if it requires some sacrifice or creative solutions.

    Nne and I had a conversation about the role of culture and expectations of women. As she rightly pointed out, African women have traditionally been very busy. They raise kids, they farm, they take care of the home, they often trade/do some kind of business etc etc......Maybe that's why some of us dont see any reason why virtue is soley from being a dedicated home maker etc.....

    And again, why is the prov 31 man sitting at the gate? does he sit there all day? or is that simply where he goes and hangs out with his buddies at the end of the day? At the end of the day, does it really matter? Nah. We're not concerned about the Prov 31 man.

    Anyways, I love the conclusion. Our worth before God and the love He has for us has nothing to do with career choice or family choice or anything really. Thank God for that :)

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  6. I have looked for Obla yoo in every nook and corner of blogosphere and I havent found the babes. Se u don fall for gutter? Anyways, come out quickly, clean yourself very well and put up an entry asapness.

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  7. Sorry guys,
    I've been swamped. Look out for the update in a couple of minutes :)

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