I have to admit something I’ve denied for three months now. I’m 30. As an evangelical woman who is married and doesn’t have kids this is the worst possible age to be. I refused to acknowledge I had a birthday this year. Telling family and friends to just ignore that day and insisting for six months before my birthday that no one dare tell anyone I was turning 30. I was “29 and holding.”
However, over the past month I’ve come to terms with the fact that I am no longer in my 20s. I’ve accomplished a lot in the past 10 years, but many of those accomplishments aren’t considered what a good evangelical woman should aspire to. I hate cooking, and you really don’t want me to attempt to make you a dinner. I hate cleaning; I would rather do yard work. I have no children, and I’ve put my career first. I also really don’t like working in the children’s ministries department at church. If I’m offered a baby to hold I normally politely pass the little one on to my husband who is great with kids.
Turning 30 in evangelical culture is horrible for women. We need to develop a sensitivity to other’s life choices and circumstances and realize that not every person is going to follow the same path. People cannot understand when you get a Ph.D., like I did, it puts your life on hold for at least 10 years. I’ve had people ask me, “So, are you going to stay home now that your husband also has his Ph.D? When are you going to have kids?” I usually respond by saying I didn’t spend 10 years of my life getting a degree I don’t plan on using; I also emphasize that God gave me the abilities to get a doctorate degree and I would be denying his purpose for my life if I didn’t take the harder road. I usually get confused looks because what woman wouldn’t want to stay home, have kids, and cook, clean and home school? Me.
(As a disclaimer I am not saying women who take the stay at home route are wrong- it just shouldn’t be the “only” option for women.)
So, in honor of officially coming out as 30, I’ve composed the top 5 things many working evangelical women aren’t great at doing. Plus, my top 5 list of why I’m proud to be 30.
The “You Don’t Fit in Evangelical Culture Because…” List:
5) You can’t go to women’s events on weekdays at 11 a.m. because you work. It’s suggested that you can get time off to attend.
4) You never bring a potluck dish and can’t engage in the “favorite recipe” conversations at church.
3) You hate gender specific Bible studies by Beth Moore.
2) You have stopped going to baby showers for two reasons. First, you are uncomfortable how children are gendered at such a young age. Secondly, you are always asked when you’re going to have a little bundle of joy.
1) You have lost the ability to be docile and compliant because you work in a field where you have to compete with men for raises. Thus, other evangelical women think you’re too blunt and not feminine.
The “What I’m Proud to Have Accomplished” List:
5) Having a fulfilling profession that provides security for my family.
4) Completing my Ph.D. before I turned 29.
3) Publishing several book chapters and peer reviewed journal articles
2) Learning that I don’t have to live up to evangelical expectations or even the world’s
expectations about appearance and gender roles.
1) Being able to say “I don’t care that I’m not a traditional evangelical woman,” and being able to brush off comments that are unintentionally hurtful.
Evangelicals need to learn that there is not a “one size fits all” mold for men and women. Some women will want to be homemakers; others will not. The conscious or unconscious preference for traditional roles for women needs to change.
Look around your churches- do you wonder why so few professional women attend? It might have something to do with the fact that many women’s ministry activities are geared to homemakers or retirees; the Bible studies are not in depth (aka Beth Moore), and the pressure on all women to behave exactly the same way is something professional women can’t do. We’ve worked hard to get where we are in our careers, and we expect to be treated equally with men. Added to all these small concerns, is the fact that there are few visible women leaders in most churches. It’s no wonder evangelical culture has stayed pretty much in the 1950s.