Going to Seminary | Part 15

by Elouise

The Total Woman 2

I don’t remember exactly when the cracks started to show. It was sometime in 1974 and 1975, my second and third years as a student at Fuller Seminary. Little things began piling up that I thought D and I would never have to deal with.

Nothing spectacular. Just the slow drip of unmet and unexamined expectations. It was one thing to say we wanted an ‘equal-partnership marriage.’ But could we deliver the goods? Especially now that we had two growing children? Who would show us the way, or at least help us navigate our own way?

Though we had no models, we knew what we didn’t want. That was easy. What we couldn’t do was name exactly what we wanted or needed from each other. We’d never seen it before! It didn’t matter what it was about–shopping, cooking, taking our children to the doctor, showing up for parent-teacher meetings, doing the laundry or folding the clothes.

I felt trapped in a world that expected me to be and do whatever a so-called traditional married woman with children was supposed to be and do. But this is 1974! The feminist movement is off the ground and running!

Everyone had an opinion. This famously included Marabel Morgan, author of The Total Woman, a best-seller in the USA. She described exactly what she thought women should do to get what they want. I felt embarrassed when I read it.

No matter where I turned, the “proper” or “ordained” role of women, married or not, was a hot topic. Yet change seemed light years away. No one had a plan to change the everyday lives of women to first-class citizens equally protected by the law, equal partners in marriage, and welcome to full and equal leadership in church and society.

It was one thing to be an equal partner with D when we were at home, taking care of our children while we attended seminary classes. At first my classes were all in the evening. But that ended.

Now I carried a regular part-time load, with day and evening courses each term. I wanted to finish my 2-year degree program in 3 years.

As for D, he worked out a way to complete his 3-year program in 2 years by taking more than the regular load. Why? Because one of us needed a full-time job with family health insurance coverage. Even with a generous tuition discount for me, seminary was costly.

It made sense that D would seek full-time employment. He was already sought after as a relatively rare sociologist with seminary training and an interest in international missions of various kinds. Happily, he graduated in May 1975 and began a full-time position at World Vision International.

But what about the children? What about cooking and cleaning and doing the laundry? What about a zillion things that needed to be done? Overnight, most of it fell to me during the work week.

Sometimes it all fell to me. D’s new job included international travel. Housework piled up. I rarely got enough sleep. And parent-teacher meetings and school activities intruded at will.

We talked about this many times. I needed more sleep and more help around the house with regular and unexpected tasks. D needed and wanted more of me. He did what he could to help me, for which I was grateful. Nonetheless, I was often despondent and exhausted by the end of the day. I didn’t want to get up some mornings.

D became increasingly discouraged; I became increasingly defensive and angry. Wasn’t I doing all I could to keep up with everything? I felt overworked and taken for granted. It seemed my identity as D’s ‘equal partner’ was nothing but a pipe dream.

To be continued….

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 March 2016
Photo of bookcover from amazon.com