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Moms Have Always ‘Worked.’ Just Ask the Puritans.

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5 things I’ve learned from an early American vision of the household.

In the context of 21st-century motherhood, the language of the “mommy wars” often seems outdated. Women today bend over backward to avoid moral judgments concerning women who work and those who don’t. We use cautious, subjective phrasing about “personal choices” and “best options” for our particular families.

And yet in more candid conversations, the mommy wars are alive and well, even if the rhetoric has changed. Both working mothers and so-called “stay-at-home-mothers” (SAHMs) harbor angst about money, attachment, the judgment of others, and a host of other issues. We still want to know: Are working women ruining their children? Are SAHMs missing out on personal fulfillment? And, common to both sides, are our families going to make it financially?

These questions, shaped by unique racial, cultural, and theological contexts, dominate not only women’s thought lives (and men’s, too) but also the broader social and spiritual conversations of our churches and neighborhoods. As a young mother wading through the first year of my daughter’s life, I have found guidance in a surprising place: Puritan women.

I first started studying Puritan womanhood while taking a class on Jonathan Edwards for my MA in church history. In my studies, I came across a book by renowned historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich called Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650–1750. While it confirmed many of my perceptions of Puritan society—strong definitions of male headship and female submission, limited public roles for women, the virtual nonexistence of female authorship before the mid-18th century—it completely changed my understanding …

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Source: Christianity Today Magazine

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