Several blogs I read have lately had posts on female Christian bloggers essentially meddling in other people’s marriages by advising what the wives ought to do or what the husbands ought to do about this or that situation. The gist of those posts has been that it is not the place of the female blogger to advise what other people’s husbands ought to be doing to lead their families.
I wasn’t too sure what to make of those posts. I have read a handful of Christian female bloggers over the years, and I haven’t seen too many situations – actually I couldn’t think of any off the top of my head – where the woman was writing anything that fit the description of trying to lead someone else’s marriage. I mean, there is a difference between explaining what the Bible says about the marital hierarchy to other women and actually advising a man how to lead his family or telling a woman what following her husband’s leadership specifically should look like beyond asking him what to do. I almost wondered if they were perhaps making a mountain out of a mole hill.
But I just read a post that exactly fits the description of a female Christian blogger inadvertently subverting the headship of another woman’s husband and accidentally sowing discontent and strife in their marriage.
In response to a female reader who wrote her an email asking if the grief she is feeling about wanting more children when her husband says no more is normal, the Thinking Housewife (Mrs. Wood) writes:
You are meant to be a mother. You are meant to say yes.
You and your husband are complicating this issue. Stop trying to make decisions that you are not meant to make […]
Please remind your husband that it is not his obligation to provide a college education to his children or anything else but basics. It is his obligation, however, to have as many children as possible. Try to explain this patiently to him. In 30 or 40 years, when he is old and weak, he will not say, “Why did I have so many children? Gee, I wish they would stop visiting me and taking care of me.” When we meet a person and marvel at his individuality or good qualities, does it ever occur to us to think, “Oh, well thank God, his parents wanted him?” No, we know that whether that person was wanted prior to his conception doesn’t much matter.
For the rest of your marriage, let God decide how many children you will have. Anything else is sinful. Put away the contraception for good. If either of you doesn’t want more children or is afraid of having more, then turn to God.
This is not helpful advice; the woman already knows she wants more children and doesn’t need persuading. In a general conversation, one that isn’t offering specific advice to a specific woman and her husband, it certainly would be reasonable for Mrs. Wood to discuss what the Bible says about children and what the purpose of marriage is and to review what church teaching says about contraception. But in this case, what she has inadvertently done is completely subvert the husband in her reader’s marriage. She has taken on the role of leading her female reader, but that is not her proper role at all.
Perhaps the woman’s husband is in sin in the area of contraception, but the correct response to this woman’s email would have been to tell her that feeling grief about being denied children is a normal response and then offering to pray for her to find peace in God. She might also have advised the woman to go to God in prayer about the situation but to commit to obeying her husband. Certainly the woman in question should feel free to talk with her husband about why she desires more children, but in the end she has to abide by her husband’s decision, not by Mrs. Wood’s.
My post shouldn’t be read as me “calling out” Mrs Wood; she probably didn’t mean to do any harm. Nevertheless, she has set herself up as the authority over her reader’s husband’s decisions and has reduced the likelihood that the female reader will be able to contentedly follow his leadership even in an area where she may disagree with him and feel real sorrow at his decision. This is something we (all women) must guard against accidentally doing.