A recent article on the Atlantic explored the idea that there could be a theological take on the work of parenting that has been largely ignored or pushed aside in the male tradition many religions have been formed by. As a father, taking on an active parenting role that was traditionally held by women throughout history, it was interesting to read two female theologians discuss how their religions (Judaism and Christianity) impacted their work as mothers.
One woman, Danya Ruttenberg, said, “I figured out that my tradition actually had a lot to teach me about love and the holy and navigating hard feelings, and finding more patience when your patience is used up,” which directly correlated to lessons she needed when raising her young children.
On the other hand, Bromleigh McCleneghan recognized the disconnect in what religious scriptures taught versus what real life consisted of as a mother. “Women’s work with bodies and fluids is not just ‘not holy,’ but profane. Not just ‘soft,’ but really not a part of spiritual life,” she claimed. Ruttenberg agreed.
What I find to be most interesting about their conversation is the disconnect between what many religious people practice, which is building strong family lives (meaning have children and raise them well) and the lack of instruction or discussion in theology when it comes to doing just that. For instance, Ruttenberg brought up the fact that a certain Jewish prayer is meant to be said while standing and silent—but how is a mother supposed to react when her child is crying, disrupting the silence the prayer requires?
After much research, because the majority of texts were silent on that subject, she “finally found one text that says you should indicate to your child without speaking that they should stop, and if that does not work, you just walk away from the crying child.”
I think most parents would agree with me in saying that is not what would be considered the best way to handle their child’s (especially a very young child’s) crying.
What the article ultimately comes to is the idea that gender roles, especially when it comes to parenting roles, need to be looked at in a broader scope when it comes to theology. “Holiness” and children don’t need to be lived in different rooms, and the sooner we can come to accept the two to be intertwined, the more we open up space for women (or men taking on parenting roles) to be involved in theology and religion as more than caretakers who stand by while men (or non-parents) do the deep religious work.
What do you think about Ruttenberg’s and McCleneghan’s take on theology and parenting? Do you believe the two works are able to be lived out simultaneously? Let me know in the comments!