When Your Daughter is Grown but Unmarried
By David Crank
(From Volume 2 Issue 1 of Unless the Lord ... Magazine)
That is the question of many parents when their daughters have finished their schooling but with no marriage prospects in sight. You have been carefully guiding your daughter towards being a stay at home wife and mother and preparing her with the skills needed to excel in this role. Now she seems ready, or nearly so, but where is the young man God would have her marry? What if there is no young man for quite some time? Or could God be calling your daughter to serve Him as a single woman? So what do you do now? How do you direct and advise her to proceed with her life? This question gets harder when your 18 year old daughter becomes 20 and then 25 or older with still no marriage prospects in sight.
Should she be sent away to college? If so, for what purpose? Is there something of real value for her there? Or would you be sending her there mostly to keep her busy and in hopes of finding a husband? A safer course might be college by correspondence or staying at home while taking some courses at a nearby community college.
In the Bible we see daughters generally remaining in their father's home until marriage, continuing to be supported and protected by him until another man assumes that role as her husband. There is nothing I find indicating it would be a sin to send your daughter away to school, just principles that point to it often being unwise, exposing her to temptations and dangers that would be better to avoid.
Consider just what real benefit the schooling will provide. Would this be the most profitable use of her time (I don't mean in terms of income, but for her future and where God is leading). [For further discussion of this issue see Should You Send Your Child to College? and Protecting Your Daughter Prior to Courtship & Marriage, both in Volume 1 Issue 2 of this magazine]
Should she get a job and work until she is married or has children? If you believe she will one day marry and that God would be most pleased that she be a "stay at home" wife and mother … does it make sense to first give her a taste of working outside the home for an employer? The path that many young women follow today is one of moving out on their own, working side by side with many young men, most of whom are non-Christian, and working for a non-Christian boss. I believe our daughters are generally more vulnerable in this environment than our sons. Nor does this seem the best way to reinforce a commitment to being a "keeper" or "worker" at home after marriage. Along with its hardships and dangers, the working world also offers an allurement of more money, independence, status, competition with men, acceptance and respect from the world, etc.
Of course there are other work experiences available where the daughter is in a more protected environment, much different from most of the working world. The best of these is probably working for her own parents in their home business. Close to this might be working in the small business of a trusted Christian friend of the parents or perhaps working for a church or Christian organization. Personally I favor work opportunities that also help prepare the daughter better for the role of wife and mother. These might include providing services for other Christian families in the areas of child care, helping with homeschooling or teaching music, caring for the elderly, house cleaning, etc. But in all of these I would exercise a degree of care to ensure it is a good and safe environment and is a benefit rather than a detriment to your daughter's maturity and spiritual life. In some instances each of these work opportunities can bring negative influences or temptations.
I know of no direct Biblical instruction telling fathers and mothers precisely what they should do in this instance. However, there seems to be a consistent example of daughters remaining in their parents’ home until marriage.
A Few General Principles
Following are a few principles I would suggest for helping you decide between options for your daughter. These principles are my own and like any general principles, there will be exceptions where the principles do not hold.
1. It is usually best (& Biblical) for the unmarried daughter to remain in the home with her parents, under her father's authority and protection while he is still living (or with her mother if he is not). Living with, or at least near, grown brothers and/or sisters may be preferable when parents die or other circumstances make living with parents unfeasible.
2. Working in the home is highly preferred over working outside the home. Working for individual Christian families or in a small Christian business or ministry is preferred over a secular workplace.
3. Working for her father or one of her brothers is preferred over working for other men. Working for a trusted Christian friend is much preferred over working for a non-Christian or someone you do not know.
4. A work environment where her interactions are mostly with women, young children, or the elderly is preferred to those involving interactions with many young men.
5. Work focused more on ministry and serving others is preferable to work whose purpose is just to earn money and keep busy. A "job" where the money is secondary to the ministry, is often a better preparation for serving a husband and family and ministering to the needs of others.
6. Look for work that teaches skills that might be helpful in assisting a husband with a home business, a farm or a ministry. But avoid encouraging too much emphasis on the creation and success of a home business. The goal is to prepare your daughter to be a good helpmeet for her husband in this regard, not to compete with him for the role of supporting the family.
7. Keep your daughter busy with serving, ministry, learning & skill development. Don't leave her to wait for a husband with little profitable to do with her time. She needs to feel she is making a contribution and doing something important.
Following are some specific ideas to consider for how your daughter might be best occupied. I am sure others could add many more. Consider what things would be most beneficial to her, what is most feasible in her situation, what seems most suited to her and the direction God is leading her.
1. Continued assistance to her mother in homemaking and child care. This might involve cleaning house, cooking, laundry, sewing clothes, helping with home schooling, gardening, animal care, etc.
2. Classes and projects to improve certain skills and crafts. This could be sewing, quilting, or needlework classes. It could be learning more advanced cooking and baking skills. It could include learning skills of the past such as making butter, soap, braided rugs, or of the farm such as raising chickens, milking cows or goats, etc.
3. Classes or apprenticeship opportunities for midwifery, or caring for the aged and handicapped.
4. Ministry opportunities to the aged. This might include taking meals to shut ins, visiting at nursing homes, offering free services such as cutting finger and toe nails for the nursing home patients, sharing through music at nursing homes and assisted living centers, driving the elderly to grocery stores or doctors appointments, etc.
5. Ministry to mothers and their children. Providing babysitting for Christian families, especially when there are special needs children involved or extensive help is needed because of serious illness (ex: mother or a child with cancer), a pregnant mother confined to bed rest, or even the mother's death.
6. Offering lessons to children in music, art, sewing, knitting, needlepoint, etc.
7. Further study in nutrition, first aid or family health care.
8. Assisting with a home business or starting a small business under the supervision and direction of her parents.
9. Assisting a Christian hospitality ministry in your own home or in the home of friends or occasionally in other settings. Assisting at a Christian crisis pregnancy center.
10. Writing books or magazine articles or writing songs, if so gifted. These can be both sources of income and a ministry.
11. More in depth Bible study and Bible memory courses. This might be a correspondence Bible course, a course of study outlined by her father, or working through a study book, etc.
12. Teaching a children's Sunday school class, leading a girl's Bible study, directing a church children's choir, ministering through music at church (pianist for the church services, accompanying others, singing, etc.).
13. Making and selling her handiwork, such as: needlework, sewing, quilts, knitting, crochet, paintings, etc.
14. Assisting with the care of grandparents, elderly or sick relatives.
Concerns About A Daughter Needing to Support Herself - Would a College Degree be Wise?
Following are some of the questions that are frequently raised concerning the possible need of a college education:
1) What if our daughter never marries? Having no husband and family, what else is there for her to do than to join the work force in a career? Won't she need college or vocational training so she can get a better job and enjoy a higher standard of living?
2) What if our daughter becomes a widow? Wouldn't it be wise for her to have had college training in a career so she can more easily support herself?
3) What if, heaven forbid, our daughter is divorced by her husband and she is left to support herself along with some number of children?
Are these good reasons to consider a college education for your daughter? Is she really likely to need to work to support herself and will she have a hard time doing so unless she earns a college degree right after high school?
In recent years, many young ladies have not been marrying until their mid-twenties or later. Yet most of our daughters will probably marry, though some may not until their late twenties or early thirties. If a daughter remains unmarried for a long time, or even forever, I think the father should allow and encourage his daughter to continue living at home. He should continue to provide for her support, as needed. She may make some financial contribution to the family but should not need to worry about the necessities of life while her father has some means. Likewise parents of an unmarried daughter would naturally seek to provide for her in their death also. In past times it was common for the family home to be left to a unmarried daughter(s) or at least reserved for her use while living. There might be life insurance specifically payable to her upon her parents' death or arrangements made for her to live with one of her siblings when her parents were dead.
Much the same applies if she is widowed or divorced before her children are grown. If she needs a place to live and financial support, she should be welcomed by her family. Her parents should be willing to take her and her children in and share whatever they have. It may be good for her to contribute financially, such as she can, by working from home while caring for and teaching her children.
If we have done well in preparing our daughter for marriage and in guiding her through courtship, we hope that divorce is a very unlikely event. Widowhood, however, is very likely, but mostly at an older age when there is retirement income or grown children to assist. Young widows can potentially be taken in by their parents again or may remarry (as Paul suggests). Hopefully their husbands have saved or provided some life insurance to at least meet their needs for a time.
A daughter who moves back in with her parents after being widowed or divorced need not be a great burden on parents. In fact she can be quite a blessing to her parents, even as they can be to her in her need. Her parents are in the position of providing a rent free place to live, and if her family is not too large, can probably feed them at little extra expense. They are also there to help with caring for her young children and providing emotional support she is likely to need. She is also in a position to help them, as their health declines and to reduce or prevent the loneliness that may result when family is not near or when one of the parents dies. She may also be able to contribute some towards the whole family's expenses. If you are familiar with the history of Corrie ten Boom, consider what a blessing she and her also unmarried sister were to her old father.
Should you send your daughter to college to prepare for a career just in case? The decision is yours. But I question whether that is really best. If it is only in case of widowhood or divorce, it doesn't seem to make much sense to me. College consumes a lot of time and money. College campuses, even Christian ones, are places away from parents with little accountability. Too many Christian young people fall into sin or are otherwise damaged in that environment. Much of the instruction provided at a college is with a strong bias towards women working outside the home and having their own careers. If a widowed or divorced daughter does end up needing to support herself, a home business or some occupation she can carry out from home might be best for her children. If a college degree was really a factor, one earned at the time of need would probably be much more useful than one received perhaps ten or more years before in a field she has never worked in.
What Can or Should Parents Do About Finding a Husband
for Their Unmarried Daughter?
As it is up to the young man and his family to take the initiative to propose a courtship, it may seem hard to do anything but wait and pray. But it is well and proper for parents to desire and seek a good husband for their daughter. How might they do so? A few suggestions are as follows:
1. Make use of opportunities to meet other Christian families that may be likeminded. Be wiling to meet new people and to be hospitable. You may become acquainted with others through home school groups, your church, other Christian organizations, through common friends, etc. (It can also be a good service for you to bring together different families you are acquainted with to become acquainted with each other.) Be open to God's leading concerning working towards a friendship with some of these acquaintances, even when they may live across the country from you.
2. Among your friends, be open and share your concerns and prayers for God's choice of a husband for your daughter. With those you trust, be willing to share what sort of young man you believe God would desire for your daughter. In this way your friends can pray with you more knowledgeably and may actually be used by God to help bring the two young people together.
3. If your attention is drawn to the son of one of your friends as possibly a good match for your daughter, risk investigating further, but with much delicacy. You might ask more about their son and share more about your daughter, but with a lot of discretion and care to not seem threatening or presumptuous. You are looking both for confirming information that this young man would be well matched to your daughter and, just as importantly, for any signs of similar interest on the part of the young man's parents.
4. Don't unnecessarily limit the acceptable age for a candidate. Sometimes we follow the age segregation pattern of our society too far and seek to match up our daughters with young men of almost the exact same age. Many young men are not fully prepared for their career and for marriage until their mid twenties or a little later. Many young women may be mature and fully prepared for marriage by age 20 or before. The prime young men for your 18-20 year old daughter may be 24-28 years old. And though with most marriages the man is a little older than the woman (usually for several good reasons), the reverse can also be true. A few young men are very mature, fully prepared for their career and marriage at a younger age. God's choice for your daughter, particularly if she is in her mid-twenties or older, could possibly be a young man a few years her junior.
One brother in Christ who teaches on courtship has gone so far as to set up a web site for the purpose of helping fathers find other courtship minded families with young people well matched to theirs. It is a little like a matchmaking service but with the fathers as participants rather than the young people. It is certainly possible that God could use this method for two families to find each other and later conclude that this was God's best choice. However some may react to this as a bit too close to the worldly matchmaking approaches and as relying too much on finding the right one through your own efforts and wisdom verses relying on God to lead and direct. I would seek the Lord carefully concerning this matter before using it, being very careful of my attitude and expectations in doing so. Remember -
“Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Ps 127:1 NAS).
Most of all you need to trust in God and depend on Him. Ask, seek and knock. Trust and wait patiently on Him. Ask also what He would have you to do. The answer may be to do nothing, in which case that is the thing to do. But also don't be afraid to step out in faith with the little light you have when He directs you to do so.
So what do you do when your daughter is grown but unmarried and no prospects in sight? As always you begin by seeking the Lord's direction and wisdom. What would be most pleasing to the Lord? What would be the safest course for your daughter to follow, that would best prepare her for marriage, assuming she probably will marry? What sort of further training, ministry or experience would be best for her?
I hope some of the ideas above will spur your thinking and help you to consider other options than just sending her to college or sending her out to get a job. Be careful not to necessarily take the path of ease, the path that the world around us advocates, without carefully examining whether this is really God's best path. Seek the right answer for your daughter through the Word and prayer. And don't wait too late to start. This is a matter that would be good to begin praying about well before your daughter finishes high school and that would be good to discuss with her before she becomes concerned with what comes next.
How you guide and prepare your daughter during this time should be a matter of considerable prayer. Our answers may all be a bit different, even as our daughters are different and God's call upon their lives may differ. Our daughters are precious treasures, be sure you give this matter the attention it deserves, for your daughter's sake.