Seminary Viewpoints

Not God’s Design: Women Focusing on Careers Above Family (Part II)

Neal Cushman | October 14, 2021
Theology Thursday

This post was written in conjunction with Neal Cushman’s appearance on The Steve Noble Show on Oct. 7.

“When a graduate student in a committed relationship asked me for advice about sequencing marriage, children, and career, I gave the advice I always give: ‘Marry him. Start your family, and keep doing good work, professional or otherwise, monetized or otherwise, when it makes sense for your family.’

“The student was flummoxed. ‘But what about graduate school?” she asked. My advice was the same. She protested. ‘But what if I get married, have a baby, and it is too hard to work at the same time? To travel?’ I told her my advice was the same.

“There are too many variables, I explained … . Prioritize what is most important to you given the real constraints of time and biology. Bearing children takes youth and nurturing them takes considerable time. I threw in my final provocative thought for good measure. ‘And if it comes to that, there is nothing wrong with putting your professional opportunities on hold for the sake of your family — temporarily or indefinitely.’

“She gasped, and said that nobody had ever told her that would be ok … . Nobody? Nobody had ever told her?” Rebecca Heinrichs, in The American Mind

Of course nobody had told her — it would be swimming upstream in today’s culture. A 2018 study found that 44% of single women ranked “living on your own” and 34% “establishing a career” as their top priorities, versus 20% for getting married and 8% for having children.

A Pew poll of men and women confirmed that 46% believe having a job or career is essential for a woman to enjoy a fulfilling life. Only 22% favor having children and 17% getting married, comporting with other Pew findings.i

The problem, as with the trend of non-working men examined in Part I of this series: being single and childless is not how God wired women.

God Designed Women to Cultivate Families

Even as God custom-built man to show love and obedience by cultivating the garden — i.e., through work — he formed women to cultivate families. Woman’s creation occurs, first, to address Adam’s “aloneness” as a “helper fit for him” (Gen. 2:18, 20). To symbolize this unique relationship, she is formed from one of his ribs, and not from the ground as with Adam and other creatures. She is made a “woman” — Hebrew ishah, “from man” (Gen. 2:22-23) — and the core principle for marriage is established for all time: a husband and wife are to regard their union as unbreakable (Gen. 2:24-25).

And as with Adam and work, Eve’s treatment after the fall confirms and complicates her role. She will experience challenges accepting God’s creative design for Adam to act as the head of the family: “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you” (Gen. 3:16b, ESV).ii She will also experience “multiplied” pain in childbirth (Gen. 3:16a).

In short, the woman’s punishment for disobedience is familial in nature in keeping with her primary “wiring” as wife and “Eve,” the “mother of all the living” (3:20).

Women Today: Breaking God’s Mold

Today, women’s stated attitudes toward child-bearing in particular are shaped by a culture that has told them, since their own formative years, that “girls rule, boys drool” and that they must focus on academic and career leadership. Those stated preferences are playing out in plummeting fertility rates, which annually hit historic lows.

But God’s truth about man’s and women’s designs cannot be suppressed. When Gallup asked in 2018 how many children Americans consider ideal, a stunning 47% said two, and an additional 41% three or more. The Institute for Family Studies (IFS) confirms that women’s desires for child-bearing are consistently above the actual fertility rate.

And as with men and work, the truth plays out in research confirming that the happiest people are … parents.

March 2021 statistics show that of people who don't have and don't want children, 49% say they are happy and 51% agree they are satisfied with their life; of people who don't have but want children someday, 57% happy and 57% satisfied; of people who have at least one biological child, 70% happy and 75% satisfied.

So why aren’t more women having children? IFS cites rapidly declining marriage rates as both women and men delay matrimony in pursuit of the lie that happiness is found in career gain.

Jesus Can Restore a Lost Culture

This brings us back to the advice that opened this blog — and the true role of churches and Christian institutions. Is it possible to reverse decades of the culture conditioning women to “rule” while men “drool” — the opposite of Creation’s design? After all, the Wall Street Journal article on dramatic drops in male college enrollment highlights a young man stating, “I just feel lost” — a commentary on the entire culture.

But “the Son of man,” Christ insisted, “is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Moreover, “with God all things are possible.” A lost culture translates, in the words of BJU Executive Vice President Alan Benson, to the greatest Gospel opportunity since the Reformation. Which, in turn, provides the means to redeem not only hearts and minds but thereby God’s design — if only the church will seize it.

i Julianna Menasce Horowitz, et al., “Marriage and Cohabitation in the U.S.”; Amanda Barroso, et al., “As Millennials Near 40, They’re Approaching Family Life Differently Than Previous Generations”; Richard Fry and Kim Parker, “Rising Share of U.S. Adults Are Living Without a Spouse or Partner”
ii See 1 Cor. 11:3 and 1 Tim. 2:13 where Paul argues for male headship based on the order of creation. For a summary of teaching on male headship in relation to the creation account, see Andreas Köstenberger, “What Does the Bible Teach about Headship?” (accessed October 5, 2021).