Why I’m No Longer a Stay-at- Home Daughter
Today our guest post comes from Bailey Bergmann Steger. She and I have known each other for a long time. We first met online through the Raising Homemakers Blog when we were both blogging as Stay-At-Home Daughters. Bailey and I lost track of each other for several years during our complete life turn arounds but reconnected just last year. To our surprise, we yet again have a lot in common on the other side of Stay-At-Home Daughterhood. Please read this story of transformation from Bailey and check out my notes at the end.
Every New Year’s Eve, my family reads aloud our past predictions for the year. “Sister will have a baby.” “Dad will buy a new car.” “The Packers will make it to the playoffs.” “Someone will complain about their predictions being read aloud.”
This year, we read predictions from when I was a kid. Mine started repeating themselves: “I will be more good.” “I will be a better Christian.” “I will love God more.”
Around the same time the desire to love and serve God awoke, I read the book So Much More.
So Much More was written by two teenage girls growing up in the heart of patriarchy. Their thesis was simple: women were designed to be helpmeets, so daughters ought to stay at home, train as homemakers, and serve their fathers until their allegiance switched over to their husbands.
Here was what my heart longed for: a simple path to living as a “Biblical woman,” a clear way to please God. Being a stay-at- home daughter encompassed all aspects of my life—clothes (skirts only), relationships (no crushes), higher education (don’t), occupation (make a home)—and all seasons of my life (as daughter, serve dad; as wife, serve husband; in the absence of either, serve brother or pastor).
The desire to obey the Bible, be a “good Christian,” and, most importantly, make God happy enough to never send me to hell plunged me deep into patriarchy at the age of eleven.
I learned how to sled in corduroy skirts; I learned how to crochet (three times—it never stuck); I asked my daddy what I could do for him (he always told me to help my mom out); but mostly, being inept and uninterested in crafts or cleaning, I wrote and read about the stay-at-home daughter ideology. Mostly I blogged at “Big House in the Little Woods,” mixing my quirky goings-on with SAHD propaganda and anti-feminist rants. (I’d never met a feminist, even online, but I knew all about their evil bra-burning ways.) The biggest accomplishment of my writing career was becoming a contributing writer at “Raising Homemakers.”
By that time, I was sixteen, and strange things started to happen.
First of all, I started hearing about the gospel. Oh, yes, of course, I knew the gospel, but my life as a SAHD in the SAHD circles wasn’t defined by the word “gospel” or “grace.” It was defined by “Biblical.” And “Biblical” meant doing this or that, or not doing this or that, in black-and-white ways that proved whether you really were a Christian. Sure, any woman could claim to love Christ, but how could she truly love him if she was ignoring the God-given mandate to be a helpmeet to her father or husband? The Scripture is so clear on this. Only someone who wasn’t serious about God and the Bible would be able to miss that.
And I, I’ll have everyone know, was very serious about God and the Bible.
I blame Jasmine Baucham for muddying this clear path of righteousness and challenging the more obtuse SAHD ideas with grace and gospel. Jasmine was intelligent, well-spoken, gracious, and interesting. I wanted to be like her. “Jasmine, Jasmine, Jasmine,” my mom would tease. “That’s all you ever talk about.”
It was true. In all my spare moments, I would check Jasmine's blog “Joyfully at Home” to see what thoughtful nuance Jasmine had inserted into the SAHD ideology. She pushed back against a lot of the legalism. She emphasized the freedom in Christ to live as individuals within God’s given design. Don’t misunderstand—to us, to her, stay-at- home daughterhood was clearly God’s given design (after all, she wrote the definitive book on being “joyfully at home”). But God’s design had space for the individual personality and interests of every woman.
That came as welcome knowledge, because as I fast approached high school graduation, I was terrified of the life I’d chosen for myself. It felt boring and purposeless. Staying home all day long doing chores and crafts? No school? No part-time job to keep me busy? Maybe I’d marry right out of high school. (Fat chance, boys being what they were around my small town.) Maybe I could start an Etsy shop. (Not that I was skilled in anything marketable.)
No, I was a writer and a thinker and an empathetic. I wanted to go to college. I wanted to get out of a small town and learn about different people. I wanted friends beyond my loving family. I wanted a job and an income to occupy my time. And I could do none of those things as a SAHD.
It shattered my world, to discover I was stuffing myself into this “Biblical mold” that bore no resemblance to who God created me to be. I didn’t fit. That scared me. I stuffed harder. The more I tried stuffing me in, the more I tried smashing the dreams and goals and traits that gave me purpose and joy, the more I was miserable.
I don’t remember the “aha” moment that broke the SAHD trance over my life. I remember working out a more flexible, grace-filled ideology over at my blog and Raising Homemakers. I remember feeling more relieved as one by one, the SAHD rules and regulations snapped off. I remember finally looking at Jesus as I’d never seen him before, in the context of grace and not law. Compared to him, how he lived, and how he called me to live like him, the SAHD life looked stupid and shallow and pointless and petty.
It was like the first time my little heart awoke for God—there it was, eager and happy to do whatever it took to know and obey God. But this time, it wasn’t a desire out of fear of hell, it wasn’t out of striving or do-righting. It was out of love and grace and freedom. And it was I, this time—I, as I was, loving as I was, serving as I was, being as I was made to be.
Here’s not a prediction, but a resolution: I will never go back to anything less than that.
Bailey Bergmann Steger is a Christian feminist, writer, and K5 teacher. She used to write at “Big House in the Little Woods”, “My Holy Joy,”, and "Raising Homemakers" but now blogs at “Ezer” about an evolving spirituality, egalitarianism, and everyday life. She graduated summa cum laude from Hillsdale College with a B.A. in Christian studies, and married her college sweetheart the day after.
Notes and Sources:
The term Stay-At-Home Daughter (SAHD), is somewhat of a broad idea and different waves encompass the movement. I would say broadly, it is categorized by the belief that it is biblical for women to submit to their father (even as adults) until they are given away in marriage (giving away can be very literal in some cases or somewhat metaphorical) to a man that they then must unilaterally obey/submit to. There is a high focus on preparing for hierarchal marriage and homemaking over careers or other life paths, whether or not a daughter is allowed to attend college.
I love how this post shows a differentiation between the different waves of the Stay-At-Home Daughter Movement. I have identified three waves thus far. The first wave being inspired by the book "So Much More" written by the Botkin sisters, the second is inspired by "Joyfully at Home" written by Jasmine Bauchman (daughter of Voddie Bauchman), and the third wave (not mentioned in the post) is inspired by "Girl Defined" written by the Baird sisters. The first wave had a Victorian-era flair. For instance, many in this wave wore only long skirts and long hair. Each wave since has been repackaged to appear more modern. Women in wave two may wear pants, and those in wave three may even emphasize fashionable "modest" clothing. Despite the updates, the basic tenants in the paragraph above are the same in each wave.
As for myself, I was a part of the second wave, the Jasmin Bauchman kind, until I became Egalitarian. Equality for women and stay-at-home daughterhood do not align.