I just tucked a slightly feverish G-love into bed, her little body curled and snuggled up under her pink flowered blanket before I even got in the room to tuck her in. I proceeded to lay next to her in bed for a few brief moments to read a story from her Jesus Storybook Bible. I could feel her little warm breath on my shoulder. And as I closed the book, prayed for her, and got up to leave the room, she quietly whispered to me.
“Mom, tum ‘ere.”
*Points to ceiling* “Dod libs up der”
“That's right love. God lives in Heaven above us.”
“An Jehaws libs in my hawrt.”
“Yep, that's right baby. Jesus lives in your heart.”
“Mom. I want to see Jehaws. Tan I see Jehaws?”
“Yes, honey. At the end of your life, you'll get to see Jesus. We all will.”
THAT, my friends, is why our work in the home has value.
Stuart and I engaged in a rather spirited discussion over our toast and eggs this morning about the devaluing of the homemaker. Partly due to our culture's desire to get us into the workplace (as if that holds a greater value) and partly due to the fact that in general, a the value and dignity of out homemaking tasks have been taken from us. The important tasks that women used to complete, that brought qualitative value to the home, are no longer.
Women used to find value in cooking dinner for their families – in learning and sharing recipes, mastering techniques, and working hard to prepare high-quality meals. Today, we can microwave a bag of pre-made chicken strips and serve it alongside a can of prepacked green beans. Or rather, we can easily drive through the nearest fast food joint on our way home from work. Our value as a cook for the family is no longer.
Women used to find value in opening their homes for hospitality – in serving their food to others in a gesture of fellowship and friendship. Today, we are encouraged to be more concerned about being served than serving. Our value as a host is no longer.
Women used to find value in educating their children – in ensuring that they were being taught Biblical principles, creeds, catechisms, how to cook, how to work, how to clean, how to grow food, how to be an upstanding citizen in society. Today, we rely on the state to educate our children and teach them these things. Her value as a teacher is no longer.
Women used to find value in faithfully loving their husbands – taking the time to love, serve, honor, obey, and encourage them in their work. Today, we are told to be more concerned about ourselves. And today, husbands have fallen victim to seduction and laziness, easily pulled from their marital vows by the all-too-easily-accessed sex in every facet of our culture. He no longer finds pride in providing, Biblical manliness, and work. Women, in turn, find it more and more difficult to find pride in being married to their husbands.
Women used to find value in what they produced. Today, we are told to find value in what we have.
“Motivated no longer by practical needs, but by loneliness and fear, women began to identify themselves by what they bought rather than by what they did. They bought labor-saving devices that worked, as most modern machines have tended to work, to devalue or replace the skills of those who used them. They bought manufactured foods, which did likewise. They bought any produce that offered to lighten the burdens of housework, to be ‘kind to hands', or to endear one to one's husband. And they furnished their houses, as they made up their faces and selected their clothes, neither by custom nor invention, but by the suggestion of articles and advertisements in ‘women's magazines.' Thus, housewifery, once a complex discipline acknowledged to be one of the bases of culture and economy, was reduced to the exercise of purchasing power. The housewife's only remaining productive capacity was that of reproduction. But even as a mother she remained a consumer, subjecting herself to an all-presuming doctor and again to written instructions calculated to result in the purchase of merchandise. Breast-feeding of babies became unfashionable, one suspects, because it was the last form of home production; no way could be found to persuade a woman to purchase her own milk. All these ‘improvements' involved a radical simplification of mind that was bound to have complicated, ironic results. As housekeeping became simpler and easier, it also became more boring. A woman's work became less accomplished and less satisfying. It became easier for her to believe that what she did was not important. And this heightened her anxiety and made her even more avid and even less discriminating as a consumer. The cure not only preserved the disease, it compounded it.” – Wendell Berry
As a homemaker, I'm used to receiving jaded responses from people regarding my day-to-day life. “Oh, well I'd love to do that too, but some of us have real jobs…” While this usually triggers my defensive nature, it also makes me sad. Without much thought, people are quick to throw jabs and elbows into the pride that I take of my work in the home. Slowly and sarcastically, they whittle away at the importance that my work has, as if to say it's not at all that important. After all, there is daycare to watch my children. And schools for them to attend after that. There are ready made freezer meals and packaged bread. After all, what worth is there in gardening when there are supermarkets? What worth is there in raising meat chickens? What worth is there in attending Bible Study? Or mending torn jeans? Or harvesting berries? Or reading with your child? Or organizing chores? Or milking your cow?
Hear me now. I'm not saying that daycare, or schools, or freezer meals are wrong. Frankly, I am thankful that we have them as they can be a huge blessing to many. But I refuse to accept the devaluing of our work behind them.
The small tasks that I pride myself on completing each day in the home hold no value in our modern culture and many are quick to remind me of such (though I praise God that I married a man who finds great, incredible joy and pride and worth in a wife who is a homemaker).
Stuart finds worth in a decorated table. And in artisan creations. And in line-dried laundry. And clean baseboards. And scrubbed toilets. And a balanced checkbook. And paid bills. And happy babies. And a welcoming home. And a loving wife. (Not to say those are always present – Lawd knows, there is always a good ‘ol mess and lots of disobedience involved in any-given-day, but what I'm saying is that these tasks, which hold little or no value in our culture, hold value to him. And to me. And to our children. And to God.)
He finds worth in this homemade life, even though it's far from luxury (we are, after all, living on a single income).
Please hear me now. I don't believe that homemaking is all that there is. I believe that some women, many women, have been called to work and use their skills to bless others in a variety of careers. But I'm fed up with our culture making women feel like they have to work outside the home. Like raising children, producing food, loving a husband, and keeping a home isn't enough. Because it is.
Husbands, encourage your wives. Let them know that their work in the home HAS VALUE to you.
Wives, know that keeping a home and growing little ones is no small task. It is valuable, it is richly blessed, and it is Kingdom work.
To hell with the lies that our culture feeds on.