Back in one of Bethany’s earliest posts, a reader asked,
I also wonder if my kids would benefit from seeing me go to work, even on a part-time basis. The Proverbs 31 woman comes to mind – what exactly should come under the scope of motherhood when you transcribe it to the 21st century? Surely no one planting vineyards, weaving and selling cloth, and buying fields – in short, running multiple businesses – was also available to her children 24/7.
The Proverbs 31 woman is frequently cited as the true model for women to aspire to. That is certainly what she is. She is industrious, and prizes bringing beauty to her family. Her husband loves and admires her. The psalmist himself says that she is worth more than rubies, and fit to be praised. Is the Proverbs 31 woman a model of a hard-working mom running several entrepreneurial business? Yes. Is she a model for today’s working mother? No.
First, we get the impression from the Psalm that she is not in the early years of motherhood. We see that her husband “sits among the elders of the land.” We see that in the manner of a Titus 2 older woman teaching, “she opens her mouth in wisdom and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” At the end of the Psalm, we see that “her children rise up and bless her.” I think all signs point to the fact that she is in the second stage of her mothering–the stage where, with no small children to nurse (in all senses of the word), she has time and energy to turn her attention to other work.
Also, the kinds of work that she does are interesting. They are all home-based businesses. She brings food from afar, and rises really early to prepare it for her family and household. She buys a field to plant a vineyard. She weaves cloth to make beautiful clothing for her family, and to sell her garments to merchants. She also demonstrates compassion for the needy, and teaches with wisdom and discretion.
I have no doubt that her children benefited from seeing her work. They must have, or they would not have called her blessed. But her work is not essentially oriented outside her home. It is all things that she does as a part of her normal daily life of running her household. I submit that she did not need to be available to her children 24/7 at this stage of her life because they were all older. We do not see a picture of her life with young children underfoot.
What should come under the scope of motherhood today? I think we can use the Proverbs 31 woman as a model. Do you shop end-of-the-season sales at Gymboree to save money and stock your kids up with good quality clothing for the next year? Do you make beautiful clothing? Do you plant a vegetable garden? Do you buy apple seconds and make applesauce? Or peach seconds to can? Do you coupon for groceries? Do you order food in bulk from amazon? Do you knit baby bonnets and sell them on etsy? Do you enjoy photography and take beautiful pictures of your children and your friends’ children? Do you paint portraits of your family members?
In verse 27, the psalmist begins to finish his description with this phrase:
She looks well to the ways of her household.
In her pursuits, she has not neglected the duties of her household. Her outside interests have not trumped the needs of her family, or tried to frustrate the designs of her creator. She is, essentially, home-oriented. She has used her hobbies as a means to enrich the life of her family. Her children bless her. They do not have to regret the afternoons she was not there to meet them at the school bus. They grew up in the rich environment of a generous and artistically and intellectually stimulating woman who fears the Lord. I only wish I could be half of that to my children, and I’m certain that being all of that to my children would be a more-than-full-time job.