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.


18 comments:

  1. I think you covered all bases. Not everyone ends up with a household where the man works and the wife stays home. I think the basic formula means that both parents are not supposed to be so tied up with going to work, there is no time for the necessities in the family such as spiritual development and a home where they can grow and mature without the home being in stress or turmoil all the time. I like the way Lindsay broke down the roles in the home. A husband can be the spiritual leader even if he is disabled and cannot work, and the wife needs to. In role reversal for the modern family, both husband and wife need time with the children according to their needs, even if the mother is the major bread winner. I think today the material demands of 2 cars, a big home and fancy clothes to keep up with fashion and the "Jones" has caused her a so call "need" to work. Children are young only for a very few years. If Mom and Dad are never home, parents are missing time to train up the child for their future, where they can give them the security and stable home they NEED even if they only have 2 pair of clean jeans.

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  2. "It's just not possible for any woman to adequately care for children and home while holding down a full time job. "

    Wow that hurt.

    As a women who grew up in a Christian home, with two working parents. I couldn't disagree more.
    My mom worked 40 hrs a week, had the house immaculate, has a great relationship with my dad (married for 37 years) and has a great relationship with her children, I couldn't disagree more with this post.

    As a child, I was in daycare, I went to the childcare provided by my church, and later attended school there. I NEVER ONCE, felt neglected, or like I could've had a better childhood or mother. She taught me what it meant to be a good wife, Christian, and that you can still have a job, that you enjoy, no she doesn't like her job more than us lol

    I talk to her everyday, whether to pray in agreement with me, or just as a confidant.

    My house wasn't in shambles, EVER. My parents were/are very loving and affectionate towards eachother, and I remember at my wedding thinking they've really been the best role models are far as what marriage entails. My dad always has been the head of the house, he makes the final decisions and is our Spiritual leader, so I saw that growing up..all while having a mom who worked.

    Here's the thing: I have NO problems with SAHMs AT ALL. I think its great. But I don't think it's right to basically say, if you're not doing it the way I do, it's not right. Just because one person may not be able to have a fulfilled marriage, parent effectively, and keep their house clean, doesn't mean another can't. We are the body of Christ, we are called to do very DIFFERENT things. God may call a woman to be a doctor..are you saying that woman should never marry/have kids, and if she does, then God will say, "Well done..now go home, I'll find a male doctor to use now...thanks."

    I'm sorry, but I just guess I refuse to think that the very same God who set the world in the motion, who put the stars into the sky, and who created his children so uniquely, would make it impossible for a woman to be able to work, and be a great Christian wife/mother.

    I think my mom did great.

    I also am a working mother, my son is three. I stayed home with him for the first year of his life, but had to work for financial reasons. I asked my husband how I'm doing and he says, "Really good" as he sits next to me..he says hi. lol ok that's enough.

    God Bless, I really do appreciate your blogposts, I find them to be enlightening and helpful.

    I hope this post didn't comment didn't come across as rude.

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    1. "It's just not possible for any woman to adequately care for children and home while holding down a full time job."

      If you read the context of that quote, what I said was that when children come along, the choice is whether to outsource care or do it yourself. If a child is in daycare during the day, the mother is not caring for the child during that time. It is impossible for a woman to keep a child with her, providing that child's care, and still keep a full-time job. That's why things like daycare were invented to allow someone else to provide the child's care while the mother works.

      Can women turn out great children while working full-time? Yes. But I don't think that is the ideal. I'm advocating for the ideal, and that involves mothers at home, not just feeding and cleaning and watching her children, but training them spiritually, providing discipline, and instilling a Biblical worldview. That is a full-time job.

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    2. So you're saying unless you're a SAHM, you can't teach your children to have the same world view as you (Biblical)? Only a mother who isn't way from her child six days a week can? And the others (like myself) are failing? You honestly believe that? And the place my son goes is to my sister, with no pay (in regards to the comment below) so no minimum wage. She does it at no charge. It can be done. Healthy Christian adults can be raised by mothers who work. Yikes you guys. So, do you condone working after children start kindergarten...or do you stay at home when there are no children in the house?

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    3. I meant to say 6 hrs a day not six days a week lol.

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    4. Home school. Again, quit farming out your children to others. If you did not want to raise your children then why have them at all in the first place.

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    5. So, ALL children in the public or private school system have parents who FARM them OUT? And if you don't think homeschooling is for you, then motherhood is NOT the answer?!? Really?

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    6. It is possible to turn out good children while working outside the home, but it is very difficult and usually less effective because daycares and schools (even the vast majority of Christian schools) don't teach children the important spiritual lessons they need to know. And for children who attend government indoctrination centers (often erroneously known as public schools), the time a parent has with a child outside of school is often barely enough to counteract the poisonous teachings they will learn there, and then only if parents are intentional and diligent about it.

      I think people have bought into the idea that the raising of children is mainly about feeding and clothing them and making sure they go to a good school so they can get a good job one day. And if they turn out to be decent people who go to church on top of that, you've succeeded. There is SO much more to it than that.

      If that is all your goal – to keep them alive, healthy, “educated” according to the world’s standards, and going to church – then it is fairly simple and can be done by outsourcing much of the care to daycare workers and school teachers and even Sunday school teachers.

      But if your goal is to produce responsible, hard-working, well-adjusted, highly-trained soldiers for the Kingdom of God – who know what they believe, why they believe it, and can eloquently articulate those reasons and evidences to others and work hard with the goal of spreading the gospel – it is a full-time job and can’t be done in a couple hours a day. No one can take the place of a child’s parents in doing this vital training.

      There are so many wrong ideas out there and children need to be taught about them and how to answer them or they may fall prey to them. It’s not just a case of being in Sunday School and knowing all the major Bible stories. It’s not even just about learning to make Bible reading a habit (although that is good). It’s about critical thinking, evidence, and having a genuine, grounded, and reasonable faith of their own. They need the influence of someone they can see, day in and day out, living and sharing and teaching about the faith to understand it as thoroughly as they need to in order to immunize them against the world’s wrong ideas.

      So many children grow up in a Christian home and go to church and then fall away when they enter the real world because they haven't been properly trained with the information to combat the lies of the competing worldviews out there. Taking them to church, even if it’s 3 times a week, is not nearly enough. If people would never think about feeding their children just 3 times a week, they shouldn’t think spiritual training 3 times a week is enough. It has to be a regular, on-going thing done by someone the child knows and can trust and whom they can see living it in daily life.

      It has to include training, not just in what the Bible says, but in how we know we can trust the Bible with evidence from science, history, philosophy, and logic that builds a comprehensive and rigorous Christian worldview. There's nowhere that does that. No Christian school or college I ever heard of will do that kind of training. Only parents who have educated themselves and pass on the information to their children through day-in, day-out training can provide that. But that's what we need if we're going to ensure we produce the kind of children who do not fall away and who do great things for God.

      Can this happen if we don't? Yes, in some cases children still turn out great, even without this training, thanks to the blessings of God. But we can't count on our child being one of the lucky few. It is our job to ensure it by doing everything we can to train them rigorously.

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  3. Linked to and reblogged.

    And no, putting children in daycare is not ideal. It is not good enough. Rationalisations not withstanding.

    Minimum wage workers do not provide the quality of care that a loving, God fearing mother provides. To attempt to suggest otherwise is ridiculous.

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  4. SAHMs aren't supposed to be doing constant care of children and an entire household in isolation. That's a recent and damaging historical change from the norm of sharing the work with other women and/or having servants/staff. Americans have generally fought this essentially village-centered approach (which is healthy and normal and a universal across Western and non-Western cultures, white and non-white cultures), but they mostly still followed it with regional variations until the combination of cars, mass media and some other things beyond the scope of a blog comment led to SAHMs having less and less actual support, bringing us to the here and now, where it is normalized that they shouldn't have help ever and that something is wrong with them if they are not doing all childcare 24/7.

    A worn out, chronically ill and exhausted mother can't provide much of anything, and that's the typical SAHM now that she isn't around other women and her kids aren't playing with nursemaids and/or other children in the neighborhood/town. The promotion of a false dichotomy between working full time outside the home where the kids go into center-based daycare and staying home full time with no breaks or help from other women distorts the historical (and current reality in other countries and a few American subcultures) truth that a woman's children often had multiple people "raising" them who weren't mother and father, even among the poor families.

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    1. It's true that, historically, women had support from other people in the community. However, these people didn't typically raise the children or spend 7-9 hours per day with them as daycare workers do today. I never said that children should stay at home all day and never interact or spend time with other people or that a mother can never leave her children for any length of time. My position is that mothers and fathers should be the primary influence on their children, which requires children to spend a majority of their waking hours with their parents and that during that time they should receive purposeful training.

      In addition, the people the child interacted with back then were generally of the same worldview as the child's parents and served to reinforce the ideas the parents were teaching. Today it's quite the opposite. Sending your child to someone else for care is very likely to result in them being exposed to behaviors, ideas, and teaching that is do not actively teach them important spiritual and moral truths and may very well undermine and challenge the parents' beliefs. People most often do not choose a daycare based on whether they will teach their young children proper theology and morality. But that lack is a serious lack, though most don't seem to realize it.

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    2. Nice strawman you created there Unreal Woman. Quite the false dilemma.

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  5. i was a sahm for 19 years, raised and homeschooled our four children, fostered 50 children during that time. i went back to work as a nurse in the same position that i held bc :) there is time after raising children that women can have careers and now that i have done both, i have no doubt that focusing on one area at a time is the best. i look back at the time needed to just be there, to have days unhurried, to read, to teach so many life skills...one cannot possibly do both well. i remember reading Edith Schaeffer in my early days of marriage and her description of a fractured life...divided between home and work outside the home, and i am thankful that my husband and i made the choice to have me stay at home. when you are done, and the children are grown, it is nice to know that your regrets will not be about time spent with your children.

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  6. Your post is thought provoking, however a woman needs to be ready to receive these words. My oldest daughter is almost 10 years old and for majority of her life I have worked part-time to full-time. I studied architecture and was focused on growing in my career in skill set and would often give the best of me to my projects, working till 10pm during the deadline crunch. However, deadlines are ever present and I am growing weary of coming home mentally exhausted and not being able to give my children much needed attention. Although, I have always hired the best caretakers, often from my church, and my kids are well taken care of - they are not receiving the training and discipline that is my responsibility. As my daughter has grown older, she became more and more resentful of my job. She often says 'Mommy, I wish you stayed home!'. I honestly do not know many women who are able to do it all - having well behaved children, immaculate home, be emotionally balanced, maintain close intimate relationship with their husband, devote time to reading the Bible, grocery shop and prepare healthy meals, etc. I don't know if it requires a job 9-5 without overtime and deadlines or major support from the husband (my husband owns a small woodworking business and often works from 7am - 9pm, leaving him exhausted) but I am unable to do it all! I am a wife and a mother that has prepared my mind and my heart to receive the words posted here. I also came to the conclusion that truly impart God's Word into the little hearts takes time and often there is not much of it left after work.

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    1. Thank you for commenting. If I have convinced even one woman to prioritize the spiritual training of her children over her career, I have made a difference.

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  7. So what your saying is,, well if you want to send your children to day care who am I to say no,,, but then again,, theres that thing called the Bible and ilm going to beat you over the head with it till you agree with me

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    1. This blog is about my views. If you don't like them, you're welcome not to read it.

      And, no, that's not what I said.

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