There is such a nasty inclination in the heart of women to create cliques and set up hoops for one another to jump through. Throughout my entire life, I’ve been very conscious of the reality that there will always be a female figure close by (or two, or three) who will push me to reach the next level – not for the sake of growth, but with the purpose of legitimizing my identity as a woman.
I was told to graduate high school as a good student; as soon as I did that, it became old news, and I was commanded to find a good college and do well in that endeavor. As soon as I accomplished that, it became old news, and I was told to find a good career. As soon as I developed plans for that, I was told to find a good husband. As soon as I did that, not very long ago, I’ve been pressed to jump through the next hoop.
“You think high school is overwhelming? Wait until college.” “You think college is overwhelming? Wait until you get a job.” “You think a job is overwhelming? Wait until you run a household.” “You think marriage is overwhelming? Wait until you become a mother.”
Perhaps this is my own fault, but I’m just now realizing it won’t end there. I will always be on the cusp of a new position that promises to put the next stamp on my woman card – which in the eyes of many others will forever be in danger of expiring. This is ludicrous. I have to stop listening to these lies.
And one of the lies I see promoted, often with dangerous subtlety, is that true homemakers must be mothers. It comes from a place of good intention, but this good intention has been misguided by the influence of the culture it argues against.
We know society at large rejects the lifestyle of voluntary motherhood. This mistake is addressed over and over by a plethora of podcasts, articles, books, and so on. Yet there is still a large subset within the category of people who promote homemaking which demands – either outrightly or subconsciously – that this position be legitimized by membership in the mommy club. Only then does your homemaking become profound and meaningful.
I understand that the easiest way to rebuke a world that celebrates the life of the working woman and degrades any inclination toward homemaking is to bring up the most obvious needs that exist at home. No one can deny the dependence of children on their mother. But in efforts to legitimize the woman’s role in the home by citing this reality, it’s often forgotten that a home and the work it requires is not authenticated by the presence of children.
Personal story time: I’ve been married for two months, and before that I “kept the home” throughout high school and early college while my mom worked full time, following my parents’ divorce. I admittedly didn’t always do the best job. In the latter circumstance, particularly, I let bitterness get the best of me. There were many on-and-off periods where I threw up my hands and said, “Everyone fend for themselves; this isn’t my job to do,” forgetting that service to my home didn’t begin when my home involved a husband.
But I was a homemaker all the same. I had a deeply-ingrained instinct to care about how the environment around me was impacting the people I loved and lived alongside. And I’m a homemaker now, though I still have a lot to learn about caring for a husband.
A lot of people seem confused about this – even the ones who profess a philosophy or theology that honors marriage, motherhood, and the art of homemaking. They always ask, sometimes rudely, why I haven’t gotten a job away from home. I gather this is what women do before they are ready for children. When I tell them I’m currently a student and a stay-at-home wife, their confusion and shock are palpable. It seems we have forgotten there is another way to end “stay-at-home” besides with the word “mom.”
I do long to be a mother, if the Lord wills. I plan on joining the ranks of stay-at-home-moms one day. These women are some of my biggest heroes. But my service to my home and my husband now is not de-legitimized by my lack of motherhood. I don’t gain the responsibility of homemaking when I gain a child. I formally took it on when I vowed to be a wife; and even before that, the seeds of it were planted in my womanly heart-of-hearts.
I know this is a lame message to be proclaiming in a time and place that so highly espouses the false gospel of feminism. Even within professed complementarian circles, it can feel like a self-indictment to admit that you collect your husband’s dirty laundry from around the house every day, or that you make his dinner plate and bring it to him, or that you make his coffee each morning before you even drink yours. It seems ludicrous that you do anything for him which he could technically do for himself. People think this is a pitiful life to live and that you’re insane to prefer it to more “meaningful” tasks.
Some of my current responsibilities are to my church, my education, and my writing ministry; but for the period between March 17, 2018 and the day my marriage covenant is dissolved by death, my primary responsibility and ministry is to promote my husband’s wellbeing. For some women, the wellbeing of her husband requires her to work outside of the home. Many married women have a job and come home after their shift is over to tend to the needs of her family – whether this family includes children or not – and this is honorable. But “stay-at-home wife and student” is what my life looks like. I care for my husband in our home because I know it is beneficial to him, both personally and in work, to have a good environment to operate in.
I am free to work outside or within the home, according to which arena I feel called to. And, at least for now, I am called to the latter. This doesn’t mean I stand in last place on the podium of “Winning At Womanhood.”
Have we forgotten the instructions in Titus 2? There’s a big part of it that gets neglected in favor of the other elements. “Train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled” (2:4) (emphasis mine).
The household encompasses much more than what we give it credit for. And we are not swayed by the opinions of ourselves or others, because our positions within the home are rooted in our identity as daughters of Christ and ambassadors of His gospel – regardless of who is the object of our service.