Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Vital Importance of a Wife and Mother at Home

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about my views on marriage and family and women working outside the home and whether women are supposed to support their husbands rather than having their own goals and careers. Here are my thoughts on the matter.

In general, I think women are called to be a supporter to their husband's calling. But that does not mean that their contribution is less important. God sees a husband and wife as a team, a single unit. So a husband's calling is the wife’s calling because the two of them are one.

We live in a culture that sees us primarily as individuals who simply make associations with each other. Marriage is generally seen as just a partnership between two separate people. The Christian view of marriage, however, is radically different. The Bible says that the two become one. Not two that have a connection, but one. God doesn't give separate overall missions to each individual person. There is only one overall calling for that one marriage entity. A husband and wife are a family and have a calling together, but the husband bears the primary responsibility for fulfilling that mission while the wife bears the primary responsibility for supporting her husband's work toward the family’s calling.

That is what it means, for example, that the husband is the spiritual head or leader of the family. A husband will answer to God for the spiritual health of his family in a way that the wife will not because it is the man's primary responsibility. His calling, above all, is to lead his family to know and serve God. Other parts of his mission may involve outreach beyond his family such as missions work, serving in the church, witnessing to coworkers, etc., but his primary responsibility before God is to lead his own family and ensure their spiritual health. A wife's primary responsibility in this area is to support her husband's leadership to ensure that chaos does not derail their family's spiritual journey and that her husband has the time and energy to devote to spiritual leadership because he isn't distracted by other minor concerns.

The story comes to mind of Acts 6 and the choosing of deacons to take care of details like feeding the needy so that the apostles could concentrate on preaching and teaching. This kind of hierarchy is found throughout life, not just in marriage. It’s not about inferiority, it’s about efficiency in fulfilling a purpose. It was the deacons' role to handle logistics so that the apostles could spend their time pursuing the main mission of preaching the word and saving souls. In the same way, it is a wife's role to handle logistics of the home so that her husband can concentrate his energy on pursuing the family's main mission for God.

The other thing to consider is that the responsibility for providing for the family is given primarily to the man. It simply isn’t the wife’s responsibility in the same way it is for the husband. Not only are men given the responsibility of spiritual leadership, but they also must provide for their family’s economic needs. In both cases, men will answer to God for how they do so. Providing is a heavy burden given to a man. It requires much time and effort. It is a great support to the husband when the wife takes care of the logistical details of the household so that the husband can devote his efforts to providing and the spiritual training of the children and then, if energy is left, to outside endeavors to further the Kingdom of God.

Now, can a woman handle the logistics of the home, ensure her family is cared for, and still work outside the home? Perhaps, in some cases – especially if they do not yet have children. But no woman is Superwoman. We all have limitations. It's just not possible for any woman to adequately care for children and home while holding down a full time job. The care of children and the home is primarily a woman's responsibility in a way it isn't for her husband. If there are no children, it may be possible for her to care for the home and her husband and still keep a job outside the home, but she must keep the home and her husband as her priority.

Once children arrive, it becomes pretty much impossible for her to work outside the home and still fulfill her duties at home. The funny thing about children is that they need constant care. One cannot care for children and work outside the home too. The choice once children come along is whether to outsource the care of the children to someone else or to do it yourself. I firmly believe that God entrusts children to a husband and wife because he wants them to be the primary influences in their children's lives. That doesn’t happen if the children spend a majority of their waking hours in the care of someone else.

Children don’t just need food and shelter provided to them, they need love, teaching, discipline, a sense of security, and examples of how they are to live. All of those things are best done when the child spends time primarily with his or her parents. Daycare workers, school teachers, and even grandparents simply cannot provide them in the same way parents can. No one loves a child like his own parents do. No one has such a vested interest in ensuring that he grows up with the proper spiritual and moral training. Even if others care about the child, the responsibility for the training of a child belongs to his parents. Daycare workers and teachers and grandparents won’t answer to God for the soul of that child. His parents will.

So, given the needs of children, I am convinced that women are called to be with their children, training and caring for them as their primary caregiver. Does that mean a mother can’t have any job outside the home? In theory, no. In practice, yes. A woman’s priority must be her own family. If she can have her children with her or leave them for only a short time each day, she may still be able to provide the necessary training and care they need from their mother and earn some income. But in doing that, she needs to be sure she is not neglecting her husband’s needs either. Theoretically, a woman can have it all – keeping a job and caring for her family too. The problem is that it is a very rare woman who has the energy to keep up with the constant needs of her children for care, training, discipline, and love and those of her husband for companionship, sex, and a partner in life as well as the logistics of running a household and still have something left for even a part-time job.

What usually happens when a woman has an outside job is that her family simply suffers the lack. Either her children spend a lot of time with other caregivers or teachers or her husband does without the companionship and marital intimacy he needs or some of the household chores descend on the husband, taking away some of his time and energy to train his children spiritually and impact the world for Christ. Often it’s a combination of these. A woman simply cannot meet all the needs of her family when she is spread that thin and, as a result, something important gets left undone.

Of course, there are circumstances where it is necessary for a family’s survival for the wife to work outside the home. That is not the ideal, but it sometimes happens. In that case, the goal should be to do whatever is necessary to make it a temporary situation so that the wife can return to the home and children and be available to meet her husband’s need as well. If that means downgrading the house, foregoing vacations, having the husband take a second job or a better paying job, having the wife work from home, or whatever, the goal should be to work towards having the wife available to fulfill her responsibilities at home. It is vital to the health of her family – both physically and spiritually. There is no replacement for a wife and mother. The family will never be as effective for the Kingdom of God as it could be if the wife is not at home, taking care of her family.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Art of Writing Love Notes


Icon by http://dryicons.com
One of the little things a wife can do to build up her husband is to tell him how much she appreciates him. Words of Affirmation is one of the 5 love languages. Whether or not this particular love language is the primary one through which a person communicates, everyone needs to hear that they are loved and respected. This is especially true in a marriage.

Knowing that I love and respect him is very important to my husband. When we were dating, Doug and I lived about an hour and half apart so much of our communication occurred on the phone and by email. Being able to communicate what we were thinking and feeling in writing was important to the development of our relationship. We got pretty good at having discussions and sending love letters to each other by email during the week. Now that we’re married, we don’t send emails as often since we talk every day, but we do make it a point to tell each other what we appreciate about each other on a regular basis. This has become a habit that we purposely cultivated in order to help keep us close. We also take time every once in a while to write out how we feel about each other, to formalize our love and respect for each other. In some cases, it’s an email. In some cases, it’s a homemade card or a little note in my husband’s lunch. But it is always designed to remind the other person how much they are loved and appreciated.

The art of writing love notes isn’t at all hard to cultivate. It just takes a little effort and creativity. Here are some tips on making love notes memorable. I have written them from a wife’s perspective, but the ideas can be used just as easily by husbands to their wives.

Be creative
Creativity in a love note says that you took the time to think about the other person. There’s nothing wrong with a pre-written message on a card, but it isn’t your thoughts or words. A personal note means so much more.

Also, if at all possible, avoid clich├ęs and common phrases. Don't try to make it sound like a greeting card. At the same time, don't worry too much about sounding corny or sappy. Just be yourself. Use your own thoughts and wording to make the note truly a message from your heart.

Say “I love you”
This one should be obvious and can work for even the briefest of notes. It should probably be included in every love note. However, because it is so obvious, it can sometimes sound stale when used alone. There are lots of variations that can make it stand out:

I love you, my darling husband.
I love my handsome man.
I love you for always.
My love for you will never die.
I love you more every day.
My heart beats with love only for you.
Don’t ever forget how much I love you.

These types of variations are much more descriptive and emotional and can help set the mood for the note.

Point out specific things that you appreciate
This one is a must, both in written notes and in everyday conversation. Taking the time to appreciate good points about your husband can mean the world to him. These statements usually begin as “I like it when…” or “I appreciate your…”

I love the way you play with our children.
I like your smile and the way it lights up your eyes.
I appreciate you taking out the trash so that I don’t have to.
I like it when you put your arms around me.
Your hard work in providing for our family is greatly appreciated.
I appreciate your honesty and your willingness to work out problems.
I love it when you are protective of me.
I like the way you take time to listen to me.
I love the way you make me feel when you tell me I’m beautiful.

Use terms of endearment
Using pet names or other terms of endearment can make a love note personal and special. If your husband doesn’t like the mushy ones that sound like baby talk, try some of these: 

Hero (every man wants to be a hero to his wife)
Darling
My man
Hunk
Prince Charming
Stud
My protector

Men tend to like terms of endearment that make them sound masculine.

Use lots of descriptive words
Descriptive words make a ho-hum note into a special one. Use a variety of different words to describe the way you feel about him, his characteristics that you appreciate, etc. Use words like these frequently: 

Thoughtful
Hard-working
Handsome
Supportive
Intelligent
Wonderful
Kind
Loving
Strong
Protective
Loyal 

Compliment your husband with words that describe his good characteristics. Let him know you’re his biggest fan. This helps build him up and also helps to focus your attention on his strengths as well, making it easier for you to appreciate him.

Flirt a little
A little flirtation is an important addition to any love note between husbands and wives. Tell him how much you like him to pursue you. Add a little spice with some innuendo or hints. Your husband needs to know that you value the physical side of your relationship with him. You aren’t just friends, you’re lovers as well. It doesn’t have to be graphic (especially if you can’t be sure he’ll be the only one to see it), but telling him you like his touch on your skin or can’t get enough of his kisses lets him know that you appreciate him as your mate. 

These tips are things that I’ve found useful in writing love notes to my husband. It doesn’t take a lot of time to write a short note that lets your husband know how you feel about him and it can help keep your marriage strong. If you’ve never done it, try it.

 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Should You Only Have Sex When You Feel Like It?

My last post actually started as a comment on the Matt Walsh Blog which generated over 1,300 likes and dozens of comments in the first 24 hours. So I figured more people would want to read it and posted it on my blog. Apparently, my comment is the sort of thing that people either love or hate passionately because there were also many comments that ardently disagreed. One of the chief criticisms (besides the oft-repeated declaration that I "don't know anything about feminism") had to do with this statement:

"Feminism told them that it's degrading to be a stay-at-home mom or to submit to a husband or to want a lot of children. They should never have sex with their husbands unless they feel like it. They should never let a man make decisions for their family."

Specifically, a lot of people had a problem with the second sentence in that quote. They objected to the idea that a woman should ever have sex with her husband when she doesn't feel like it.

But I absolutely stand by that statement. I think it's perfectly normal and right for a woman to have sex with her husband even when she doesn't feel like it. In fact, I'll even go so far as to say that a woman ought to have sex with her husband even when she doesn't feel like it - at least sometimes.

That sounds like a radical idea, I know. Our society has become so feminized that this idea is actually considered crazy or weird or somehow the same as saying women should be raped. It's not.

You see, there are lots of things we do that we don't feel like doing. I don't always feel like getting up in the morning, making breakfast, feeding my kids, cleaning the house, changing diapers, going to the store, or a million other things I do. But I do them because they need to be done and because I love my family. My feelings don't rule me. I make decisions based on love for my family and what needs to be done to care for their needs.

It should be the same in for caring for my husband's needs, including his need for sex.

Of course, the usual response at this point is to ask whether I consider sex some painful, unpleasant duty. I get people saying my sex life must be horrible. On the contrary.

You see, it is a modern and erroneous notion that "duty" is a bad word and the opposite of "pleasant." But that is a false dichotomy. There is no inherent reason that duties cannot be pleasant. Nor does doing something out of duty mean that one cannot enjoy it. Of course, not all duties are fun, but they don't have to be unpleasant simply because we have a duty to do them.

For example, I may not feel, at the moment, like taking my girls outside to play. It's hot. I'm tired. I have dishes to do. But they want to play outside and the fresh air and sunshine will do them good. So I go because I love them and have a duty to care for their needs. One of their needs is play time and time with mommy. But once we're outside, we have a great time and I'm glad I did it. Duty, in this case, was not preventing me from having fun. In fact, duty helped me overcome laziness, lower priority tasks, and distractions that would have prevented me from having fun with my girls.

There are many other things which work similarly. I have a duty to read and study the Bible, and I enjoy it. I have a duty to feed my family, and I also enjoy it. I have a duty to vote and participate in my government, and I don't find that duty horrid or burdensome. I have a duty to be a witness to those around me, and I find that duty agreeable.  I have a duty to clean my house...ok, maybe I don't necessarily enjoy that one, but it isn't some horrible thing I do just because I have to either. I do it because I love my family. And having a clean home is certainly enjoyable.

In the same way, I have a duty to have sex with my husband, and I also enjoy it greatly. There is no contradiction there.

Another thing to consider is the design of female sexuality. Women are less likely than men to be aroused out of the blue. We women often need touch, closeness, and the right mindset to get us in the mood for sex. If a wife is waiting for the mood to strike her before she says yes, it may be a long time and it will take a toll on their marital intimacy. Thus, women who go ahead and engage (not just laying there, but actively participating), even if they weren't initially in the mood, will often find that they warm up as they go along and end up enjoying it. And the emotional intimacy that comes from physical intimacy will strengthen the marriage and bring husband and wife closer together.

So, if duties aren't necessarily unpleasant or a hardship and women can often enjoy sex if they will choose to engage, then pointing out the duty to have sex within marriage doesn't mean that sex becomes unpleasant or forced. Sure, it could be that way if you let it. But it doesn't have to be. If you have the right mindset, recognizing the duty to have sex can help you overcome laziness, lower priorities, and distractions that would prevent you from having the vibrant, intimate, and fun sex life that God intended you to have in your marriage.