I Am Not Going to Be a Lawyer

I originally posted this up on Facebook to explain what I’ve been doing for the last year.

A few of you have asked what I am going to do now that I’ve finished my Bachelor of Laws. Where I’m doing my articles, whether I’ve found another job yet, what exciting career choices I’ve made.

The answer is going to surprise most of you and may even offend or disappoint some of you. And to those of you who feel disappointed, I really do understand. I don’t like being one of those people without the character or gumption to pick a thing and stick with it. But I don’t think that’s what I am. I haven’t drifted. Instead, I’ve found something better, something more importaint. Something far more fulfilling, challenging, and exciting.

Something that doesn’t involve being a lawyer, or, indeed, having a career at all.

My family isn’t new to unusual choices. Mum gave up a cushy teaching gig when she married Dad, preferring to pour her life into her new family. They were pioneer homeschoolers; people would say “What’s that?” when they received the unorthodox answer to the question of where we went to school. Instead of getting a job after uni, Isaac started his own business when he was fifteen and put himself through uni, to which my maternal grandmother responded with “Now that he’s finished uni, is he going to get a job?” Ha, no! Why, when he can be his own master?

So this is me, reverting to type. I’m not going to be a lawyer. I’m not going to do articles, and while I may at some point consider becoming a fully-qualified lawyer, I have no immediate plans for doing so.

After my job at a local law firm finished last year, I found myself asking “Quo vadio, where am I going?” As months passed with no job coming up, I began to seriously question my purpose in life. The final straw was probably the moment I realised that working in the law was going to involve moving so far away from home that I would not have many opportunities of seeing most of my family. I did move to Melbourne for a while to look for work, and found the prospect depressing. Meanwhile I had time and enough of an internet connection to catch up on some interesting-looking blogs. One thing led to another and before long I was researching a relatively recent movement among the Calvinist homeschooling large-family Rushdoony-reading lovables I call my friends. The (very unofficial) figureheads among this movement, Anna-Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin, call it “visionary daughterhood”. It’s more widely known among detractors and supporters as “stay-at-home daughterhood”. I still remember the day early in November last year that I realised I was thinking seriously about it. I had first heard of it way back in 2009, and thought it was a pretty crazy, legalistic sort of idea. Now, somehow, I was considering it for myself.

Professional daughters are usually girls from large homeschooling families who reached the end of their school years and found themselves facing a dilemma. Another high-profile home girl, Jasmine Baucham, wrote in her book Joyfully at Home something which really resounded with me:

While the nature of a young man is often seen as something fixed and transcendant—men are to be leaders, providers, protectors—the nature of womankind has been given a flimsier definition. If a woman is a wife, she is to be provided for, protected, and led—she is to be bent towards her home. If a woman is single, however, she is to be…a man with the potential to become a woman if ever she should marry.

This never bothered me until I sat down to think about it. Why is it that we accept biblical manhood in every context—single or married—and encourage men to strive towards the unchanging concept, while biblical womanhood is seen as something that can only truly be realized if we are married? That, if we are single women, our nature is completely different from that of a married woman?

This struck a chord with me because from the beginning I was very intentional about what I wanted from my law degree. I wanted a way to support myself until I became a wife and mother. Then I would quit and do all the things I really wanted to do with my life—help my husband, have and raise children, keep house, learn to sew, write those novels and that textbook on law, have a garden, &c. If asked I would tell people what I really wanted to be—the noblest profession—but I thought that until then I would have to work full-time and shelve all my dreams. Many people did not ask. They simply assumed that I was bound for a William Street office with a brass plaque and a big income. If marriage and babies were considered at all, they would of course not be allowed to interfere with my ticket to the High Court and the big squashy seat Justice McHugh was keeping warm for me.

While looking for employment last year, I had time to ask all those questions I hadn’t been asking. Like

–Why would I want to leave my family, the people I care about most in the world, to put the best years of my life into the pockets of strangers?

–Do I really need money so badly that I will move to another city to make simply pots of it?

–Why am I wasting my time sitting around waiting for employment agencies to call back about jobs I’m ridiculously overqualified for?

–Professional Woman X complains that her job is unfulfilling, she can’t wait to get home at the end of every day, and there has to be more to life than that office; and I know I’ll feel the same way; and I am doing my level best to become exactly like her why?

–Why am I exerting myself to build a dazzling legal career when all I want is to drop it like a hot potato when I get married?

–If my ideal job and probably future career description is “wife and mother” why spend my youth training as a lawyer? That’s like a young man doing a degree in biochemistry and then expecting to get a job as a corporate executive.

Part of the reason why I had never even considered professional daughterhood was that I didn’t have a very clear idea of what it entailed. The basic model, as far as I could see, was employment for daughters in the family business—and we didn’t have a family business. However, as I spent time looking into it, I discovered that it was far more exciting and varied than I could ever have thought. If you hear about the movement from its critics, you’ll hear hilarious things like:

–Stay-at-home daughters have no education. Stay-at-home daughters need no education!

–Stay-at-home daughters disdain honest work, preferring to sponge on their relatives.

–(and somewhat inconsistently) Stay-at-home daughters have been brainwashed by their hyper-religious families into forever slaving away for their families, losing their identity and sense of self-worth.

In fact, professional daughters are among the most proactive, hardworking, ebullient, creative, and liberated women I know. Many do help their fathers in a home business: making films and documentaries, helping run non-profit organisations, accounting, and more. Many others, whose fathers do not employ them, make money from dressmaking, tutoring, catering, interior decorating, Etsy shops, real estate broking, wedding planning, or whatever else they please. They study the arts of homemaking, small business, and child-rearing. They educate themselves on as many topics as possible, write books, teach younger siblings, and become experts in the art of living as gracious, elegant and truly omni-capable women. One good friend of mine, Charmagne, has a sister and brother-in-law here in Australia. Her father, wanting to give the newlyweds a boost in life, sent Charmagne over to help with whatever needed doing. As it turns out, Charmagne’s brother-in-law needed a shed—and I mean a BIG shed—for his woodwork business. When Charmagne showed me the shed, my jaw dropped. She shrugged. She may even have giggled. She said: “When I started, I didn’t even know how to use a power drill! Now I’m using plasma cutters and everything!” Charmagne’s brother and sister are now years ahead of other young couples their age—because they have a truly visionary sister who loves them, isn’t afraid of getting her hands dirty, and would far rather invest her time in them than in anything else. And who knows where her incredible shed-building, truss-constructing, steel-brace-making, floor-laying, and plasma-cutting skills will come in handy next?

Visionary daughterhood isn’t about exactly what you do with your time. It’s the attitude you bring to your time. It’s a realisation that you have a whole lot to offer the Kingdom of God, or more particularly that part of it in which you have been planted. We’ve all heard stories about men who want to evangelise the world but won’t even spend time with their own families. I’m not saying that if you’re not an “at-home girl” you’re somehow neglecting your true calling—that would be legalistic and false—but it’s about putting your treasure where your heart is. It’s about freeing yourself up to do what needs doing—being free to accomplish great things. We at-home girls don’t have young children. We don’t have jobs. That makes us a tremendous resource, for our families and for our churches—and I am still amazed how logical it is for a hopeful future help-meet and homeschooling mum (like me) to spend her unmarried years studying to excel in those things she hopes to spend her life doing!

The vision, even before I made Charmagne’s acquaintance, was bracing. It was something I knew I wanted. But would it work for me? Was this really where God was leading me? I didn’t know—but I wanted to try it. I came home from Melbourne in late December for Christmas with Dad’s permission to try it for six months until I finished my law degree.

Those six months have passed (long passed…!), and I’m making it official. So far I haven’t built any sheds, made a fortune planning any weddings, or captained any expeditions to the South Pole. But I have begun a modest proofreading/editing/tutoring/general English services business which, with other odd jobs, has provided for all my needs—astonishing, since I literally did not make a bean during all the six months I spent trying to find a job; and I have had a truly incredible amount of unsolicited job offers. Friends, I am writing those books. I am mastering the art of sewing and pattern-drafting. I am teaching my little sister Latin and helping Mum to teach other things, like English composition. And I’ve just come home from a few weeks with a family who needed some help while the wife and mother is recovering from ill-health—something I would never have been able to do if I’d been employed even part-time.

I have some long-term goals, too. I am always having to battle what George Grant calls “the tyranny of the urgent” in order to focus on long-term projects, and so far I haven’t come off with resounding victory in that struggle, but I know that a long-term vision is important. One of the things that disenchanted me, not with the law specifically, but with having a career at all, was the sobering thought that perhaps I would die an old maid after a barren life in an office with no chance to live the joyful and diverse life of a woman at home. For the first time in my life, I’m in a state of what I would call contentment. It’s a new and exhilarating feeling. I’m where I want to be, doing what I want to do, and I couldn’t be happier. I can’t wait to see what the future holds—I just hope it’s something spectacular. Excelsior!

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6 Responses to I Am Not Going to Be a Lawyer

  1. W. L. says:

    Well said! And thank you. This was a real encouragement to me today.

  2. Mrs Bart says:

    Oh Suzannah, to think I met you and wanted to chat more but did not get back to you and now find we could have had so much to talk about. I would have enjoyed talking about how you wrestled through making this decision – may the Lord bless you and keep you courageous.
    Mrs Bart

  3. Its really hard going your own way. Kudos on you for setting out on that journey, and best of luck whatever you choose to do. Really like your header by the way.

  4. Jane says:

    Suzannah, I stumbled upon your (other) blog when looking for cover art for some ebooks… thanks to you I have now read a number of ‘vintage’ novels which I probably wouldn’t have thought of looking at otherwise. Can I just say that I really admire both the way that you have thought through your choices, and the way that you have communicated them here. I am presently an at-home mother of small children, which is (as I’m sure you know) both a draining/challenging occupation and one which is far more varied and opportunity-laden than widely advertised. Simply being available to do that which needs doing is often a great blessing to a much wider circle than simply my household. It has occurred to me oft times before how many more things I would be able to do if I didn’t have the children… but then, I think, I wouldn’t be here to do them, I’d be ‘working’… (because, of course, we all know that what I’m doing now isn’t work, she says through clenched teeth.) So, anyhow, I’d like to send you my very best wishes for your spectacular future, and also my admiration and respect for the way that you have chosen to spend your present.

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