Family, Choices, and the Media

Family Choices Media“Life is about finding the meaning, joy and purpose in all the chaos,” declares Allyson, the main character in the movie “Mom’s Night Out.” The film is intended to be a funny, faith-based, family-friendly portrayal of four moms who are desperate for a night out, leaving their husbands to watch the kids for a few hours while they are away. “Mom’s Night Out,” according to the film’s co-producer, Andrew Erwin, is intended to “celebrate moms in all their beautiful forms.” Interestingly, though, it has stirred much criticism. While 86 percent of moviegoers who saw the film said they would recommend it to their friends (compared to the 60 percent average among all films), only 15 percent of critics gave it a good review, according to Rotten Tomatoes.

The struggle

As the internal struggle in the hearts and minds of women about their role in family life continues, books, magazines, blogs, and Ted Talks on the topic explode and top the charts. It is no surprise that this light-hearted movie has spurred lament as well as laughter, debate along with delight, and judgment as well as jubilation. Most women can relate to the looming question that accompanies the gift of motherhood or potential motherhood. When I have children, will I stay home or continue to work? Women are making these decisions many years before they have a family or are even married. It is a question of identity, of contribution, and it is ultimately rooted in our beliefs regarding our value and calling as women.

Financial pressure

The 2012 ForbesWoman, TheBump.com State of Parenthood and The Economy 2012 Survey found that most women feel financial pressure to support their families outside the home. Sixty-nine percent of the women surveyed said their family cannot survive without their added income. At the same time, 52 percent said their partners or others can give them the sense that they are not devoting enough time to their child or children. Similarly, 44 percent of the stay-at-home moms say their partner or others give them the feeling that they are not pulling their weight financially.

Staying home

The Census Bureau indicates that the number of American women who choose to stay home with their children has increased in 2013 to approximately 5 million. Additionally, 24 percent of married-couple families with children under 15 had a mom who stayed home, up from 21 percent in 2000. This rise may be attributed to economic conditions, such as recent increases in unemployment/underemployment, or it may indicate a changing tide in our nation toward strengthening families. Time will tell, but the media critics are outraged at the idea of this new trend.

Christy Lemire of RogerEbert.com said “Mom’s Night Out” is, “depressingly regressive and borderline dangerous,” adding that it, “peddles archaic notions of gender roles.”

Gender roles

Interestingly, research on successful marriages shows that couples that have clearly defined roles—in whatever way they choose to define them—are happier compared to those couples who do not. Defined gender roles are important, and, clearly, 24 percent of couples have chosen to delineate their roles in a more traditional (as opposed to “archaic”) way.

Similarly, Neil Genzlingermay of the New York Times reported that Allyson is, “an insult to the millions of women who have much more to deal with.” While millions of women do choose to serve outside the home, his comment casually assumes that it is because caring for their families is simply not that important. The vast majority of women would surely disagree. According to the Census Bureau, it seems that about 5 million women believe that staying home with their children is the most important thing they choose to deal with, amidst the many other important choices and opportunities.

Unfortunately, the film also portrays men as incapable of caring for their children and almost a liability to the family. This depiction of men as incompetent increasingly shows up in television and movies, and it does not represent the best that men have to offer their families.

Unique callings

1 Corinthians 12 reminds us that God has equipped each of us with unique gifts and purposed paths. Some women may be called to be doctors, custodians, teachers, or ministry leaders. Other women are called to stay home with their children, volunteer in their schools and pour their time and talents into their home and family. Some women have the financial means to stay home with their kids, but feel God has called them to serve him in the workplace. Other women may not have the economic means to stay home, so they continue to work outside the home to ensure that their children have the food, shelter and resources they need in order to thrive.

In Ephesians 4:1, Paul urges us, as prisoners for the Lord, to, “live a life worthy of the calling [we] have received.” This is my responsibility. It is your responsibility. We are each accountable to God for the unique calling he has laid before us. Paul goes on to instruct us, in Ephesians 4:2-7, as the body of Christ, to bear with one another in love in unity. He raises the stakes with an extra requirement—we are asked to do so with humility and gentleness.

While the media often glorifies films that promote violence against women (i.e. prostitution, abuse, objectification of women’s bodies) and promotes shows that depict men as bumbling idiots that cannot be trusted, Christians can choose to lift one another up and encourage both men and women to use the gifts God has given each of us to run, with perseverance, the race marked out for us and our families. In doing so, remember to look for the meaning, joy, and purpose in all the chaos.

Dr. Terry Morrow Nelson is the President of Morrow and Associates Partnership for Leadership and Transformation and a Certified Christian Conciliator. She also serves as an assistant dean and assistant professor at Nova Southeastern University.

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