Thursday, November 20, 2008

biblical womanhood (6b) homemaking

Yesterday, I wrote about some of the obstacles to homemaking: valuing paid work above working at home; being at home but not "busy" at home; and doing other ministries at the expense of home and family.

I know there's a lot more to be said about being a "home worker", but I'm leaving some of it until next week, because I want to reflect on how homemaking and "good deeds" (next week's topic) fit together. The truth is, I'm pretty confused about this issue myself, and I'm still trying to work out how it applies to my life.

In the meantime, here's a few preliminary thoughts on what homemaking is all about. Very hazy and unformed! But I hope you find them useful. I'd welcome anyone's comments or suggestions.

  • Homemaking, along with helping our husbands and bringing up our children, is our primary responsibility if we are married with children (Prov. 31:10-31; 1 Tim. 5:14; Tit. 2:3-5). We'll be involved in other ministries as time and the seasons of life permit (and often our home and family will form the basis of these ministries) but home and family should be the focus of our time and energy (more about this next week).
  • Homemaking is not home worship. It's possible to prioritise family and home to such an extent that it's not good for us, our husbands, children, church or community (we've all known self-absorbed couples and families, and women obsessed with making their homes beautiful). Jesus is the one we worship, and marriage, family and home are temporary, not eternal (Matt. 10-37-39; 22:30).
  • Homemaking is hard work. We're called to be "home workers" not "yummy mummies" (Titus 2:3-5). The Proverbs 31 woman is never idle: she gets up before the sun, goes to bed after the sun, and "sets about her work vigorously" in between (Prov. 31:13-18).
  • Homemaking is about managing a home - literally, being a "home ruler" (1 Tim. 5:14). It's a position of authority and responsibility, requiring skill, intelligence, self-discipline, organisation, training, and energy. It means overseeing and managing all the matters relating to the home. You don't need to ask your husband for advice about every tiny thing! It's your job to make decisions and oversee operations.
  • Homemaking is a multi-skilled profession. The Proverbs 31 woman cares for her husband and children, provides food, clothes and bed linens from scratch, contributes to the family income, and manages an extended household. For you, homemaking might involve managing finances, fixing things around the house, shopping, planning, cooking, cleaning, mending, organising the calendar: the possibilities are endless!
  • Homemaking doesn't exclude or elevate paid work. The Proverbs 31 woman contributes to the family income through making clothes and selling them, trading, buying fields, and planting vineyards. But her home and family come first: she works for their sake, not her own self-fulfilment, and she doesn't work at the expense of her home and family.
  • Homemaking is about people. The place serves the people, not the other way around. Your husband's preferences, your children's happiness, the mood of a home, whether it's welcoming to visitors, whether people feel comfortable there: these are all more important than a shining floor or a well-ordered drawer (unless these are important to the happiness and smooth functioning of the family).
  • Homemaking will look different for everyone. We all bring our own distinctive personality, preferences, skills and gifts to the job. Some delight in baked goodies, others in choosing paint colours; some prefer neatness, others comfortable clutter; some excel in financial management, others in quilting; some are married to men who like to cook, others to men who don't know one end of a broom from the other: as long as we love and serve the people who live in and visit our home, let's rejoice in our differences.
  • Full-time homemaking isn't always possible, even when we would prefer it. I'm not sure a couple doing two full-time jobs to afford a more affluent lifestyle is a good reason for not giving more time to homemaking! But a husband who is sick or unemployed, a wife who is unable to do physically demanding tasks, relational breakdown or single parenting, may mean a woman needs to work full-time, or a husband to fulfil many homemaking responsibilities. Let's not judge others, especially when we don't understand their situation.
How does this apply to single women without dependent children? I'm not sure. You'll hear some people say that single women should focus on preparing for marriage and home, or on nurturing other people's children and creating a home. I'm not convinced, although I'd like to think about this more! The advantage of staying single is to have more time to serve Jesus, although this will be done in a distinctively feminine way. Older widows (over 60) were to teach younger women (spiritual motherhood), and to devote themselves to good deeds, such as hospitality (from a home!), service in the church (while supporting male leadership), and caring for the poor (at the time, this often meant using feminine skills involved in making clothes) - 1 Cor. 7:34; Tit. 2:3-5; 1 Tim. 5:9-10; Ac. 9:36-41. What do you think?"

Next week, we'll be looking at the "good deeds" women are called to do. I'd like to think more about how to balance caring for our families and ministry outside the home during the different seasons of our lives. It's a huge topic, so feel free to jump in now and tell me if you have any thoughts!

image is from stock.xchng


Bec said...

Yes, homemaking is one of the most demanding, yet undervalued 'careers' a woman can undertake. At a recent dinner with some of my husband's ex-work colleagues one of the men said, on hearing that I homeschooled 5 children under 7, that I was the ultimate PROJECT MANAGER! True in many ways - yet most companies have one employee dedicated to the task of organising and scheduling, and others to actually DO the work! We homemakers do it all!! Some of us are 'better' at it than others, we all have our areas of strength and weakness, but I wish that more women (and men!) would have their eyes opened to what a HUGE job running a household is, how important it is, and how God can use our homes and our families to glorify Him!

I'm really enjoying these posts, Thanks Jean!

Rebecca :-)

Anonymous said...

While a widow is a single woman her role is very complicated when she has children. Not only is she a homemaker she is also the only breadwinner. Adding teaching younger women, hospitality, service and caring for the poor seems a little unfair!!!

Ellie (and yes, I'm living it.)

Jean said...

Yes, I see your point. I'd see these (teaching woman, good works, etc.) as responsibilities for every woman, married or single, childless or with children: but only after she's fulfilled her primary responsibilities for her home, which in your case sound like they include earning money and caring for children. In other words, some will have only a little time for these things, and others a lot: it all depends on season of life and situation. I think Paul's talking about older women who are being cared for by the church, not women financially responsible for a home. What I meant was that single women with extra time because they don't have the responsibilities you mention for children can use their time for these things. Sorry if I wasn't clear.

Jean said...

There you go - I've added "without children" to my point about single women. Hope that clarifies things! "Single with children", one of your main roles will be to make a home for them - as well as earn money. A difficult situation, and the rest of us would do well to support and pray for you.

Liz said...

Jean re: widows, I think that it refers to "widows over sixty" because when they were younger they were encouraged to remarry...

I'll compose some more thoughts about homemaking for you soon.

Jean said...

Spot-on, Liz.

mattnbec said...

Yes, I too have wondered about the idea that single women should be preparing for marriage andf family. Most people will marry and it is a good thing to encourage young, single women to consider how they might grow to be a godly wife. On the other hand, making it too much of an expectation that a single woman will marry doesn't help her to cope with not being married now if she struggles with that. I wonder if we do people who are long-term single a dis-service by making too much of an assumption that they/people will marry. It can make it sound like them being single means they're second-class, less blessed by God etc. Also, it can make the disappointment of desiring marriage and a family even harder.

I think remembering that homemaking looks different for different people is really freeing - thanks for the reminder. As someone who is something of an expert in clutter, that's really encouraging. Sometimes it's easy to forget that other things you do are homemaking too when all you can see is everyone's mess!


Rachach said...

I was wondering if a wife and mother could delegate some of her tasks to others so that she could do other things outside the home or be more effective as a wife/motherfor example pay a housecleaner, put her kids in childcare, hire a nanny or chef (?).