Tuesday, March 22, 2011

30 days of gratitude in the home -- day 24

A blogger wrote about being de-friended on Facebook by an old school friend. The blogger's friend resented the fact that the blogger had done nothing with her life except be an at-home wife and mother and, thus, thought she should disassociate herself from the blogger.

I find it fascinating how our cultural views of what a woman should be doing are so powerfully shaped by women, ourselves. I suspect that how women view the home is largely how society views the home.

Our society has a theory that men have put women down by not wanting them to work outside the home. Is that true? Perhaps. When I was growing up, there were a good number of men who took it as a matter of responsibility and pride to provide for the family, freeing the woman to perform her role at home. (I have to confess that I think that's a good thing). There was also a sense in the more distant past that a man and a woman worked together to build a life -- not going in separate directions but aiming toward the same goal. However, I know some young men of today who are pushing their wives to work outside the home, even though the young women want to be at home with their children. By and large, I think it's women, ourselves, who have forced a societal change in which a woman's role in the home is now disdained.

I find that it is women who present to society and to other women that being a wife and mother is of secondary importance to having a career outside of the home. Rather than respecting work traditionally done in the home as being true and valuable, as early feminists did, the newer waves of feminism view a woman's caring for her own home and her own children as being drudgery and of little use to society.

This, in my opinion, is an extension of the American idea that a person is defined by his or her paycheck. Upon meeting someone, the first question that we Americans ask is, "What do you do?", meaning what do you do for a living. This is not true in some other cultures. I think also today that our public discourse is becoming more critical and harsh in tone, perhaps because we forget that things said on the Internet affect real people.

Women are so much more powerful than we realize we are. The words we say and the way we conduct ourselves does influence society to an incredible amount. Even in cultures and times when women did not have as much legal right to be heard as we do now, they still found ways to be of influence -- if, in nothing else, through their verbal persuasion in the home and community.

As women, one beautiful thing that we can do for each other is to speak well of our roles as wives and mothers. Whether or not we have a job outside of the home, we can treat our home life and the activities we do there as being valuable. We can speak excitedly of the treasures of home as we do of exciting things in a career. If we regard our roles in the home as being of worth, then others will follow.

When we are at home, we can dress neatly and groom ourselves well. We can smile, rather than looking harried. If we are happy and secure in the home, then we will not be so easily put down if others -- even women we know -- run down what we do.

Just as with every role or career in life, being a wife and mother and keeper at home has its challenges. We need to be open and honest about those challenges with a few select friends who can help us through any rough spots. Those of us who are older need to reassure younger women when they struggle.

We need to remember that there is no work in the world that does not have its hard times; indeed, the more important and the more interesting the job, the more trials that seem to come along with it. (Whatever your political views are, don't you think President Obama has more than his share of headaches?)

Thus, it's no surprise that women who deeply care about keeping a home sometimes run into setbacks. Today, such women might also face opposition from people who don't value the home as deeply. We need to mentor and encourage each other in the ever-so vital sphere of family life, just as someone might mentor a younger woman in a business career.

A woman I know spoke of her experiences taking her children to the school bus stop. One woman started in complaining about her husband, then another, and another, and so forth until the whole conversation was centered on topping each other's stories about how dumb and oafish their husbands were. My friend felt uncomfortable. And, needless to say, this experience was a sour note in what had started out to be a sweet day. This is the kind of speech that tears down.

This is a far different thing than to ask of a trusted source, "My husband ______. I _____. What do you suggest that I do?". One attitude is simply complaining for the drama of it; the other is seeking a solution to a problem.

Are you thankful to be a wife? to be a mother? To have a roof over your head and food to cook and clothing to wear? To have the comforts of a domestic life? To have time as a wife and mother to expand your mind by stimulating conversation, reading, studying, praying, and generally enjoying life? Are you grateful to be able to show hospitality, which always brings with it great rewards of fellowship? We don't need to pretend to have perfect home lives -- no one does. We must not be fake. But, we can be discreet and wise in speech, and we can radiate gratitude rather than a sense of oppression.

The world needs more women (and men) who are enthusiastic about marriage and children and home and who speak of it with honor. As Kathy Peel, author of the Home Manager, says, you will move in and out of other careers, but you will be a home manage for life.

In one sense, we should all -- men and women -- live our lives for what will matter to us in our last earthly breaths. I've never heard of anyone who was dying think, "I should have advanced more in my career". Their thoughts are more, "What kind of person was I? How were my relationships? How did I live before God?"

That's not to put down other types of work beside the home, for work is a God-given part of life. However, those of us who choose to be keepers at home can emphasize the importance of our work in the home by maintaining a grateful attitude. Our thankfulness will communicate itself to our families and to others. Speaking with honor of the work we do will also communicate something to our own hearts, and we will find ourselves feeling more satisfied and happy.


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