A thoughtful reader once asked for my thoughts on college for girls given the expense incurred and what often seems like a poor return on the investment. Her question is one I think about often as we have four daughters who will all be college-aged in the space of 2 short years. Actually, we haven’t thought about it in terms of agonizing over if they’ll attend college or not. We have deliberated about what obtaining a college degree will look like for them; the fact that they will live at home, that we won’t go into debt, etc. We have always agreed that being college educated is a good decision, so long as it’s done in a wise and discerning way.
Being the parents of only girls changes the way you approach the task at hand. If my husband dies at a relatively young age, there are no brothers on whom our daughters can depend. Any brothers that may come from this point will certainly not be available to help our daughters who are already very near womanhood. Our extended families are not those where adults of either gender would be tolerated to live without producing an income and I don’t know of very many churches that bother to take on the responsibility of caring for women who are capable of providing an income for themselves.
My husband is emphatic on this point, and I agree: we want our girls to be self-sufficient. Not self-dependent; we are teaching them their help comes from the Lord and we want them to have a strong sense of family and community. Ideally, they will be entrepreneurs as we have taught them that this is the best way to help their husbands generate more income if needed, and is also the best way to avoid the drudgery and bondage of corporate life if they don’t marry.
I work diligently to try to impart to them the skills they’ll need and the attitude required to be good wives to their future husbands, able homemakers, and excellent mothers. We teach them to be open to marriage at a young age, and not waste time pursuing a career during their most fertile and energetic years. We raise them to understand that should the Lord bless them with a family, their first and most important calling is to be present and not outsource the training of their children to third-party hirelings. It is the norm for women to become wives and mothers and it is a sad indictment of our society, and especially the church that we cranking out young adults less able in this arena with each successive generation.
However, one reality of the 21st century that is often overlooked in the conservative and Christian blogosphere but that we have to contend with nonetheless, is that it is becoming increasingly uncommon for marriage and family to be the norm for many women (and not always by choice). Parents of daughters need to raise feminine, grounded, capable women rather than princesses languishing as they wait for a prince who may never come.
I am aware of how this sounds. Particularly to those who have invested fully in the “truth” that woman was created exclusively for marriage and the home is her sole sphere of influence. It is not that I don’t believe in the ideal. It’s that I know the prospect of an ideal world this side of heaven died in the garden of Eden. Anyone who knows me knows my passion for homemaking and the zeal I feel for women to leave the rat race and come home to their families. It is not that I don’t have the faith that God will send husbands for my daughters. Besides, statistics become far less daunting when viewed in light of the fact for every woman, all that is needed is for the one right guy to come along, and the rest don’t matter. Nevertheless, I am an optimistic realist.
There are reasons directly related to their futures as homemakers that are incentive for my girls to obtain college degrees as well. One reason I think a college degree is possibly a good investment is that I foresee a future when the option to home school, should my daughters choose it, will be highly regulated on a national level and a college degree will most certainly be a minimum requirement for families who would educate their children at home. I also want to give them the opportunity to cultivate their interests, and hear different points of view. I had a good time defending my positions in a few of my college classes. There is value in having to articulate or defend your views on paper to a skeptical audience. It grounds you in what you believe. There are few places that compare to a modern college classroom to hone that skill.
Ultimately, we want our daughters to be open to the direction of the Lord in their lives, and whatever that might look like. While I hope that it means a dedication to home and family, I realize there is possibility that for at least one or two of them, it may not. That need not mean a life less than full. It need not mean a life devoid of ministry to others. As much as I desire for my daughters to be wives and mothers, it is incumbent upon me to remember that God’s plan for their lives is not about my desires, but His will, and our job as parents is to prepare them for whatever the future may hold. If it becomes clear that His will for any of them is to NOT earn a college degree, we are truly open to that as well. We simply do not believe that shunning a college degree is a Biblical principle.
Ultimately, our position is one of openness. Openness to wherever the Lord leads and awareness that while we are to guide our children, they are to follow after Him.