What Fundamentalism Taught Me About Being a Good Mom: Evie’s Story

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Ryan Hyde.

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Evie” is a pseudonym.

After becoming a new mom, I have been realizing how many bad mom- good mom rules have been thoroughly ingrained into my being because of my fundamentalist upbringing – whether intentionally or unintentionally. While some of these are complete foolishness, I can see the love but misunderstanding that many of these started with.

Yes, I have taken many of them to the extreme to emphasize my point- but I feel like many of the beliefs were extreme, and although very few people actually stated them verbatim the undercurrent of the messages was definitely present. This realization led me to compile the list below.

I’d love to hear what others remember and realized.

GOOD MOM

Looked good/attractive – did not cause her husband to have an affair/use porn
• Always responsive and available for her husband
• Soft, submissive, gentle
• Cooked from scratch as close to nature as possible (i.e. garden, grind wheat for bread)
• Kept house clean
• Dutifully taught kids’ school. If she didn’t know the subject she was teaching, spent her time reading ahead to learn it.
Only needed college education so that she could teach her children better – [and, really, is that a good investment of money?]
• Didn’t spend money on herself or her family [all the way down to groceries] so that she didn’t stress her husband – the sole breadwinner.
• Didn’t cost anything and, instead, found a way to make money while staying at home.
• Got up early and went to bed late to take care of her family.
• Quietly agreed with everything
• Never missed church
Only had one emotion – joy
• Just a tiny bit less intelligent than her husband and never “rubbed it in” [accidentally let it slip that she might know something]
• Did not run for any leadership position – unless it was only females
Was careful to phrase everything she said so that she didn’t accidentally teach a man anything

BAD MOM

• Made her children eat “unhealthy” [not home cooked] because she was lazy.
• Let her body go
• Looked overly feminine
Sent her children to organizations where they would be abused or indoctrinated (i.e. daycare, regular church)
• Did not properly protect her children and let them get abused
• Allowed their daughters to get raped
• Spent money on “expensive” [new/ good quality] clothes.
Was too busy to take “care” [always be in the physical presence] of her children
• Had a dirty house
• Was confident and competent in the workplace
• Worked for any other reason other than her husband left her or died [in which case she would be pitied]
• Had an opinion on anything other than the appropriate church doctrine
• Disagreed
Had personal boundaries
• Became exhausted (because she wasn’t trusting God” – who will give you the strength you need to do what He [aka the men and/or church] needed you to do)
Struggled with depression or mental illness
• Was smarter in anything than her husband
• Sought intelligence (although this was ok as long as she didn’t learn more about anything than husband because this would be prideful)

9 comments

  • Also:
    Good Mom:
    Never needs any time away from her children. Does not find being around her children draining in any way. Needs to personal time or hobbies.

  • How smart you are to identify the underlying belief system/fallacies. So much of what you describe sounds like it’s from two-hundred-and-fifty years ago. So much requires self-suppression and other-manipulation. This blog is a fascinating read into another American culture.

    I’m a homeschooling parent by default–the school district drastically failed my highly-gifted special needs kid in a way that harmed him. I’m grateful, in our situation, for the lack of oversight, as his anxiety means that, for now, we’re stuck with what’s called “un schooling,” I.e. I dribble interesting crumbs in front of him and then he does graduate level work himself.

    But the more I read of religious-based homeschooling, the more I think we need more standards for it, Nationwide. Although we associate in secular coops, occasionally at home-school fieldtrips, we meet the seven-year-olds talking non-evolution, and hell-fire.

    In the past, I have known–known well–families whose five-year-olds were terrified of Satan, who believed in faith-healing, and who feared that we would burn in hell for not sharing those beliefs, so I know this can continue while living in the mainstream world–alongside regular employment, day-care, watching TV. But at least for those folk in the mainstream, there’s more of a chance of the women speaking out when they are being physically abused or getting mental health help for themselves or children who are struggling.

    hey, take a read of memoirs of people from the Utlra-Orthodox Jewish world, like the Satmar Community. They are so similar, except they actually speak a different native Language–Yiddish. Talk about isolated!

    Good luck to you all.

    • My kids go to public school and I’ve always said I would homeschool them if I HAD to, but so far they’re doing fine in public school, so I haven’t had to seriously back myself up on that statement. It’s interesting to read the point of view of someone who DOES have to homeschool. Hi. 🙂

    • To Sam,
      This is one branch of religious homeschooling. A very large branch. But there are other branches also. I am a home schooler that is a Christian. That is not the primary reason I homeschool though. I read this blog to help me stay balanced.

      This article is very accurate the way many religious homeschoolers think, but not all.

      • I don’t belong to any homeschool groups in my town because they are run by this type of religious homeschooler. The annual homeschool book fair is overrun by them. I’m an isolated loner (although my kids definitely are not!) because they don’t want me in their club! I use a science book written by an atheist, I teach history that does not gloss over the actions of our land-grabbing murdering ancestors with piffle about a new Chosen People, and I wear PANTS. (Also I’m ECUSA, so obvs. I’m going to Hell.)

  • Reading through this list has made me even more aware of how many of those teachings I still operate from. On the surface the good mom list doesn’t sound bad and the bad mom list only sounds marginally bad. I think it goes back to the heart: am I doing things a certain way to please man/people and their god they’ve projected onto me? Or am I doing things a certain way because I personally like it that way? My problem with the extreme fundamentalist, patriarchal teachings is that if you don’t follow them to the letter, you’re wrong, you’ll never be blessed, and you’re going to hell. Doesn’t sound like love to me! Thank you for posting this list!

  • Good Mom
    Disciplines kids by spanking for every “disobedience”
    Doesn’t give into her emotions and/or compassion

  • Good Mom
    Has quiet, obedient children that never question anything

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