Following my first post on how we, as women, have fallen into the trap of this modern culture of climbing the corporate ladder and being all things to all people...I have had a surprising amount of our ladies ask me,"How do I change that? I'm there - and I do feel trapped. So, how do I break free?" One lady summed it up for me... "A few of us recently decided that we have educated ourselves too much for our husbands to allow us to "simply" stay home and be the Proverbs 31 woman. Trap is such a good word for this situation!!" So many others have said, "We bought this house and now, whenever I talk about staying at home, he reminds me that we cannot afford it without my income. I hate this house - I wish we never moved in it." One particular mom this week told me "I would sell anything and everything I had to so that I could stay at home with my kids...the problem is, he thinks we need this stuff." So, the question rings in my ears as I write..."how do we get out of the working-mom, never-at-home, mediocrity trap that we are in now?"
Now men, before I get started in this, realize that this is not a male-bashing fest...we are not about to blame all of this on you, however does the Bible not put the ultimate responsibility for making sure that your family operates according to the Word of God, on you? I believe so. IF your wife has expressed these desires to you, and IF you have had these conversations...it is time to make a serious plan to change. Not put it off or hope that these "maternal instincts" settle down. It will settle down - into a resentful and miserable wife! Begin taking steps toward helping her to fulfill this calling - talk about what can be "given up" and find where sacrifices can be made. The enemy will ensure that it will not be easy - following Scripture rarely is....but we are called to do it nonetheless. Ok - I'll let my husband speak to that more at another time...but I just wanted you to see that if your wife is ASKING to be at home, to be a helpmate to you and to influence her children for Christ, which is a unique calling for Biblical feminity, why would you see that as an obstacle to overcome rather than as a blessing?
Now ladies, I have been asked "how" - how do we make that happen? How do I get out of the trap? How can I make everyone at work happy AND everyone at home - I feel like I am failing EVERYWHERE! Sadly, I know EXACTLY how you feel! There have been times in our marriage where I have worked outside the home, some before children and even some periods since the boys have come along. There have also been times where my church activities have kept me so busy that I have felt like I was in this "trap" of letting everyone down...We can find ourselves there so easily and for so many reasons - so, some practical pointers:
1. Realize that you are to HONOR GOD in all that you do. Colossians 3:23 is speaking in the context of submission to authority and it says "whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward" It means that whatever situation you find yourself in at this moment, do not allow your circumstances to dictate your behavior! If you are unhappy with the workplace, your boss, the fact that you are not at home, you feel overwhelmed at home...whatever - YOU WORK HEARTILY, AS UNTO THE LORD...He is the one you are serving and you cannot forget that. In answer to some of the ideas I have heard lately - NO, you cannot start letting the chores at home "fall" so he will notice and see that you need to be at home to get them done. NO - that is manipulation and God will not be honored in that. HE knows YOU! He knows your heart even when you are not capable of knowing it yourself (Jeremiah 17:9). You give your all...every moment...for the Lord - He is the one you are serving. Honor and Glorify HIM in all that you do and do it with the attitude of love and service that glorifies Him - trusting that HE will direct you and your family.
2. Pray for your husband! If you have asked him and talked with him about your feelings on this, clearly and openly (NOT just hinting at it) - then HUSH! Proverbs 27:15 says that we can become worse than a "continual dripping" of a leaking roof! Ooohh ladies - let's watch our nagging! We want something so badly and feel justified in it because we can back it with Scripture - but that does NOT give us the right to become quarrelsome or nagging. PRAY for your husband - we show by our nagging that we do not believe that God can change him or change this situation. Do we TRUST God with our life, our home, our career, our husband? GOD can "get hold" of our husband's hearts in ways we cannot with our words....TRUST Him! After all, He can work through this situation to change US!
3. Focus on Priorities - Sometimes what seems urgent in our lives is really not most important! Remember when you feel pressure from all sides - when you have deadlines to meet, when the boss is pulling and home is tugging...re-focus on priorities. Take a moment and think - in light of eternity, what is my calling and my Biblical mandate to do in this situation? There may be times when submission to the boss takes precedence over soccer practice - you signed on for that job, made a committment and soccer is a game...But, there WILL be other times when you will be faced with saying NO to that promotion or NO to those extra pay hours because neglecting your family's needs is not an option. Your children MUST KNOW YOU...you cannot become the nanny who tucks them in at night after the mom at daycare wiped their nose all day....THEY NEED YOU to talk with them, open the Word of God with them, to hold them and ask about their day at school...You may be trapped in a job you don't want right now, but you do not have to continue the downward spiral in the quest for more money, more prestige or furthering the career you say you don't want.
4. Set a Schedule - when you are at work - work hard! But, when you are at home, leave work at the office. Your children and your husband MUST know that you are with them...and that they are not "in the way". They are top priority and they have your attention. If you have older kids - they are perfectly capable of doing some of the household chores (and SHOULD BE doing chores). Get done what you can in the evenings, but do not let the chores become the focus of what you do. A family who enjoys being together can even make chores a non-event or even a fun-event if Mom's attitude is right. Remember though ladies, it is OUR responsibility to be over the home - the Bible does not say, "unless you work - then it is 50-50%"...it is ours - the less we gripe and the more we do, the quicker it gets done and the less we sound like that leaking roof. The more our children see a right attitude and a serving heart that does even chores out of a love for our family. Children SHOULD be doing chores (they are learning how to do things for their future home) - husbands should NOT. If you have a "chore list" for your hubby...(ouch, right?)...we are going too far. It is not wrong to ask for help with something here or there - but if you have a constant list of items that he is supposed to do, you are putting off what God says is yours to carry. We are in danger of trying to be MOM instead of HELPMATE.
5. Remember HELPMATE was our first name (Genesis 2:18). That is our first role. We are to be a helpmate to our husband - saved or unsaved, working or not, agreeable to spiritual roles or not...we are to be a helpmate to him. Let God deal with the heart. HE told us this is our role - we just need to be the best at it we can possibly be, to the glory of God - and trust HIM that He will take care of us in that. There may be times that you feel taken advantage of, or maybe you are the only one working right now and doing housework (in our society, this is happening more and more) - do not give in and reverse roles just because these circumstances allow it...the enemy can make that easy for us to justify or rationalize in our minds - but it is still not right! Before the job, before the kids, before the church...our role is to be a HELPMATE for our hubby. To make it easy for him to be a man of God. To make home a place he wants to be, to be a wife that is easy to lead and looks to him for leadership, and to focus our children (positively) on him as the head of our family and our authority.
6. Be Careful - so many times we focus on only the negatives of our circumstances and we grumble beneath our breath - our own attitude is our downfall. We can never be a helpmate to our hubby, set a good example for our kids, let alone please God if we are grumbling and complaining! Remember our earlier quote "a few of us recently decided..." means that a few of us were talking! Be careful ladies - our conversations with friends can quickly turn to husband bashing or complaining...focusing our energy in this area is never honoring to God and it defeats us in our attitudes. Make sure that we are "doing him good" and making him "known in the gates" for the right reasons (Proverbs 31:12, 23). Watch our words ladies - they are usually our downfall. My mouth is ALWAYS getting me in trouble....let's guard it as the dangerous weapon it can be!
Ladies, there is SOO much more that can be said - Scripture is clear on how we should treat our families and our husbands, even our bosses, if we don't "muck it up" with our "but my husband..." and "if only he would..." rationalizations. Ladies, our enemy will always place before us opportunities to justify our sin - the question is, are we content to do so or are we determined to serve God, regardless of our circumstances, and trust that He has us right where we are for a reason. Your job situation, your home situation - none of it catches God off guard or poses a dilemma for Him...He knows you, He knows your heart and He even knows what direction He is taking you. SERVE HIM where you are by being the Godly wife/helpmate you are called to be first, the Godly mom second and the Godly employee third. THEN, trust HIM to show you the path out of the trap. You may have gotten yourself into this trap (don't we always?), but the grace of God can teach you something in it and, if you are willing to do whatever it takes that God lays out before you when the time comes (even if it means letting go of "stuff"), He can lead you out. For some, this balancing act may be ongoing for a while - determine to be like Paul and Silas in prison, and praise God regardless of your circumstances. Serve with all your heart and remember it is HIM that you are serving.