I joined the CBE – Christians for Biblical Equality group on Facebook and have gotten into the habit of checking in every day to see the interesting posts members share. A couple days ago, one man, Erik, shared an article that had brought his wife to tears of shame and guilt that morning:
You’ve Trained Her in the “How” of Homemaking, Have You Trained Her for the “Why?” by Jennifer at Raising Homemakers. This is a blog about clipping your daughters wings – training her to see her role in life as a subordinate to her husband whose sole work consists of cooking for and cleaning up after others.
Here are some
“If your husband were to come home, unexpectedly, right now… what would he find? A cared for home and family, or chaos and disorganization?”
Here was one excellent comment: “... If you were at a paid job and weren’t doing the work that’s expected of you then your employer would be unhappy. So, depending on what you and your husband expect from your role at home, are you upholding your end?”Exactly. Our husbands are gone all day, working for us and the children, sometimes doing work they don’t particularly enjoy, in conditions they may not find pleasant. On the other hand, we are in the sanctuary of our homes, typically spending our time as we see fit.
Another reader wrote to me privately: “Am I doing my part? Sometimes yes, most times no. Truly makes you take a step back and say if I was working at a real job, would I still be employed?”We must train our daughters that keeping their homes clean and orderly, working heartily as unto the LORD (Col. 3:23) is their reasonable service (Romans 12:1) and is necessary, that the Word of God be not blasphemed (Titus 2:5).
Although the intent of the author is clearly to encourage wives to put their best foot forward when it comes to caring for their home and husbands and “training” their daughters, the effect is quite the opposite. Like Erik’s wife, most of us women feel the weight of impossible standards bearing down on us. We can never do enough or be enough. We feel judgment when our house is not perfectly tidy and our children are not perfectly behaved and our appearance isn’t perfectly put-together. We also feel like we are losing ourselves when we don’t have any space in our lives to spend our time “as we see fit,” but are always tied to the responsibility of assisting and caring for others. And on top of that, if we are not completely happy while trying to meet these impossible standards, we again feel like we’ve failed.
There are women who are naturally inclined to order and homemaking who could read this post and nod in agreement, without sensing the undercurrent of sexism and shaming. But the truth is, we women come in a wide variety of personalities and giftings, and our value and worth does not come from where we land on that spectrum. It comes directly from our Father, who imprinted us with His image so that we can display His glory as creative, life-giving people (whether that is in creating meals, sermons or spreadsheets…whatever our work may be).
What I think the author gets wrong about homemaking, is that God does not command all women to be June Cleaver. In fact, He doesn’t command any women to be June Cleaver. God does not tell women that they are solely responsible for the laundry and meals. The other side of that coin is that God does not tell men that they are off-the-hook when it comes to helping out with the household upkeep. God tells both men and women to steward creation, but He leaves it up to each couple to decide how they are going to accomplish that in their own home and family.
Additionally, the author seems to be completely blind to her privileged position as a full-time homemaker. Most families cannot survive on one income in today’s economy. Yet the author makes it seem that the only way for a wife to be living in God’s will is to be keeping a clean and orderly home.
I would also object to the image of the husband as the disgruntled boss who inspects the home upon his arrival at the end of the day to see if you are holding up “your end”, as though marriage is merely an exchange of goods. Excuse me for choosing to see my husband as my friend and partner in life – and as my co-warrior in ushering in God’s kingdom in our family and neighborhood. At the end of the day, if work and child-care took precedence over the dirty dishes, there is nothing I appreciate more than family clean-up time. What would take me two hours on my own can take half an hour when Logan and the kids are all helping me. We are a team and we understand that we all need each other to pitch in and serve together. In this way, we are also training our sons to take responsibility for their own messes and to appreciate that putting all of the homemaking responsibility on one person robs that person of pursuing what makes them truly human. By dividing the work evenly, we all have at least a little bit of time each day to spend “as we see fit.”
It is imperative that we allow our daughters to be fully human – i.e. to dream and explore and discover; to follow their aspirations and giftings and to follow God’s prompting, even if that leads them into the workforce. We must teach them to find their identity in God, not in their home or husband or career or any other category. When we understand ourselves only in those categories and not in the light of God, we will lose sight of who we truly are. Let us
train allow our daughters to fly.
That’s my two-cents. Here are some of my favorite comments in response to this post from the CBE Facebook community:
Deborah: Ok, maybe I’m jaded. I work AND keep my home clean and orderly. I really don’t see a reason to continue enabling bad habits in men of not being capable of both. I teach my son how to keep his room clean, fold his clothes, and when he’s old enough, how to cook his own meals, babysit, and do his own laundry. Because not doing that is to severely handicap him. If he wants a maid, he can hire one, but I will make darn tootin’ sure he doesn’t think he’s going to marry one.
Joy: The “real job” bit is offensive. While supposedly elevating homemaking, she actually degrades it.
Beata: “Our husbands are gone all day, working for us and the children…” – nowadays many women work outside the home too. Why only women should clean, cook, etc.?
Bethany: Another reader pointed out that this woman fails to recognize that it is often physically, mentally, and psychologically easier to go to work, with less demands, less headaches, less need to train your co-workers to be competent, and more immediate, measurable rewards (e.g. paychecks, health insurance, breaks, etc.). The author responded by telling this woman to stop “making excuses” and get to work, because “God commands it” so it doesn’t matter if it’s not easy. She tried to phrase it slightly more politely than that, but that was the essence of her response. I was appalled. Homemaking is valuable and, to a certain degree, necessary. But it is not easy, and it is not always rewarding or lovable (very often, it’s the complete opposite). To ignore this fact is disingenuous, especially from those who are attempting to elevate homemaking as a woman’s “highest calling” (barf).
Brian: Is there anything particularly wrong with a woman that wants to stay home and take care of the house and kids?
Bethany: No, not at all. But to say it’s her only option and that God commands her to always have a clean house is false, and it makes a lot of women feel not only as if they’re failing at being mothers/wives/homemakers, but that they are failing at being Christians too.
Erik: It is the pressure created by unrealistic expectations that is harmful.
Deb: Gak! I guess single women have no worth, because there’s no one to clean up after.
Faith: We taught both our daughters and sons to cook and do laundry…they taught their friends in college and tech school…Such skills are helpful to everyone. We view the house as everyone’s responsibility. We are each supposed to pick up after ourselves, wash dishes, cook, etc…Sometimes we do divide chores traditionally…but it is our choice to do it, not a Biblical mandate.
Faith: What about training our daughters to be Kingdom people…seeking first the kingdom of God…taking the gospel to the ends of the earth, healing the sick, raising the daed…feeding the hungry and ministering to the widows, the orphans and strangers…caring for children and family is important…but so is the kingdom of God.
Mabel: southern Baptist seminary has homemaking classes for the women and theology classes for the men.
Ronda: I am so sad to hear this about Southern but not surprised. I am an alum but graduated when women at Southern could be theologians, apologists, pastors, evantelists, ethicists, counselors, etc.
Mabel: This article is NOT about if anyone wants to be a housewife, it is about telling ALL wives that’s what they should do and the reasons why. It says we “MUST” train our “DAUGHTERS” as if sons don’t need to learn to keep a clean house. It is all the women’s “role.” She aslo accuses women of not doing their part, her answer to a reader’s question “am I doing my part” is “Sometimes yes, most times no.” She shames women and accuses them of not doing their part “MOST TIMES.”
Billie: Do we want our sons to get married just to have someone to cook and clean for him? That would be raising a very shallow child.
Bronwen: I’m a bit saddened by the implication that the only useful way to spend time with our kids is to “teach and train” them. Yep, that’s PART of a parent’s job…As a chaplain in a government school (in Australia) and as someone who has worked a lot with kids in churches, one of the things I hear most from kids is that they wish that a parent spent more time with them and listened to them.
Julie: My DH is from America. Sometimes we have mused between ourselves, is the USA so devoted to slavery that, having lost black slavery, they must now create a new slave class to do all their cooking, cleaning and thankless chores for them? It sure looks like male headship is less about exegesis and more about preserving male privilege and entitlement, no matter what. Who knew that servitude could be spun to look so shiny, glossy and “godly?”
Joy: Has perfect housekeeping become a bit of an idol? I remember Martha and Mary had some tension over this.
Check out this great post from “Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood”: God is Not Your Boss
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