One of the arguments that you commonly hear against long-term stay-at-home-moms is that they will get bored. The argument goes something like this: “If I don’t have a career, what will I do when my children start school? What will I do when they leave home?” This idea goes hand in hand with the idea that stay-at-home moms aren’t doing anything, which Emily talked about on Monday.
I find this argument ironic when you combine it with the other notions our culture has about stay-at-home-momhood. Frequently, I hear that women cannot stay home because it is too hard. They would go crazy being around their children all day. Or that the drudgery of the housework that needs to be done would make them insane. On the one hand, we claim that there is nothing to do as a stay at home mom, on the other we loudly proclaim that we would go crazy doing it. Funny, right?
We have come a long way from the days of Laura Ingalls Wilder, where Ma Ingalls had chores for every day of the week that consumed the entire day. Ma would spend entire days doing things that we barely give a second thought to: butter making, washing, ironing, bread making. We now rely on machines for a lot of these tasks. When Ma Ingalls wanted to iron, she had to heat her iron in the fire, then iron one sleeve of the shirt she was working on before it got cool. Then she would repeat. We plug our irons in, put some water in, and then iron the shirt in about 2 minutes. Or better yet, we just buy no-iron in the first place. So the argument that moms today have more time than they used to makes a lot of sense to me. With the fewer number of children we’re having, once your children are in grade school, there are many hours of the day to fill. I agree–we have more time than women have ever had in history.
But I want to cast a vision for young women of a different way to fill those hours. Sure, we could pursue our dream career, have fixed hours at the office or at home, answer to a boss, and bring home a paycheck. Or we could follow the model of the Proverbs 31 and 1 Timothy 5 women: we could fill our days with works of charity.
There is so much work to be done. As a woman with hours to fill, imagine the ways you could help in your church: nursery for the weekly moms group, picking a young mom with small children and giving her a coffee break, doing secretarial work for free, vising the hospitalized of the church, taking food to shut-ins, visiting and comforting those who are suffering. What about work in the community? Making friends at the nursing home, volunteering for a library story hour, giving time to the crisis pregnancy center. What about the even more daunting task of fostering orphans who need parents? There is never a lack of broken children to care for; only a lack of those who will love them.
All these jobs are similar to stay-at-home-momhood in one important way: they are tasks that few people will ever see or appreciate. But just because something isn’t appreciated doesn’t make it worthless. We seem to think that the ‘mere’ task of caring for small children as a mom is below our skills and intelligence. But when we think that way, we fail to take into account that we are serving other people, which is the work that the Bible values most highly. The same goes for all these works of necessity and mercy. We are caring for the bodily needs of eternal souls, and we are told that when we do that, we serve Jesus Himself. To those whom much has been given, much will be expected. We do not toil over washing the laundry in a river anymore. Instead, we can give generously from our excess of time.
Will you join me in rejecting the idea of fulfilled womanhood as our culture (and many in the church) see it? Give of your precious time to care for those in need, starting with our children and ending with our community. You will reap rewards far greater than a paycheck, and you will never regret it for a single minute.