How Much Do You Know about Your Wife's Work as a Stay-at-Home Mom?
You may be the recipient of her home-cooked meals, wear the clean clothes she washed and folded yesterday, and eat off the dishes she unloaded from the dishwasher. You may share a bed with her, raise children with her, and even participate in keeping the home in order. You love her and value her, and maybe you even tell her that regularly.
But even if you do all of that, here are five things your wife wishes you knew about the work of the home.
1. It’s actual work.
Sure, she might not get out of her pajamas until noon, but she is still working. Work is part of being created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). Work existed long before compensation, so whether she is paid or not, she is still working.
Work is God’s means of loving the world through the labors of our hands.
The hours look different than for those who hold more traditional jobs, but that doesn’t diminish what she is doing. Work is God’s means of loving the world through the labors of our hands. She is doing that good work by cleaning the floors, making the home a safe and welcoming place, and hosting weary friends. She is loving the world in the grocery shopping, the meal planning, and even the training of children.
She is working, and it is good.
2. It’s hard for her to measure her success.
Back when she was punching a time clock (or getting a regular paycheck) she had a better gauge on her work. She may have had performance reviews or even worked on a collaborative team. These things made measuring her success easier. Of course, we know that worldly success is not God’s standard (Eph. 6:7; Col. 3:23). But we are also human, so we want to know that we are at least on the right track.
The work of the home is mundane, ordinary, and often doesn’t bear fruit until years later. The meal to a sick neighbor, the caring for children, the daily keeping up with all that makes a family run smoothly is good work, but it’s work that is behind the scenes and often unnoticed. She may be discouraged. She may want to know that you see her work as valuable. Tell her.
3. It’s not just women’s work.
When the Industrial Revolution happened, work was divided sharply along gender lines. Fast forward many years and we have also brought this gendered understanding of work into the home. While she may be the one primarily in the home, and therefore the one who does the bulk of the at-home work, all of us will give an account of how our homes are used for the good of the world and God’s glory (Heb. 13:1–3).
In Scripture, hospitality is a male and female command (1 Tim. 3:2; 1 Pet. 4:9). Raising children is for both parents (Eph. 6:4). You may enjoy the work of the home, or you may not, but the fact that you live there means you should be a contributor to that work.
4. It’s lonely.
God did not intend for us to work in isolation. No man (or woman) is an island. We were made for community and collaboration in our work. We need people to share the load with us, to bounce ideas off of, and to encourage us in our work.
In our current cultural model, this does not happen very easily in the work of the home. In fact, it takes a lot of intentionality to create community and collaboration in at-home work. It’s lonely most days, doing work that is ordinary and mundane. If you spend your days working in an environment that has more community than the one she has, she will be served by your empathy toward her.
5. Sometimes she needs a break.
The home is a place of rest and refuge for many. However, all your wife sees are the things that need to get done. We follow in the pattern of our God who rested on the seventh day (Gen. 2:2). We rest, though, not because the work is complete, but because we are finite. We are limited beings who cannot keep up the pace set for us in our work.
But it’s hard when the work is where you live. It’s hard when the work includes the people you love the most. Some days she may swing between feeling like she may explode and feeling guilty that she needs a little time away. Anticipating her need for rest will serve her, and will also give weight to your acknowledgment that the work of the home is not her burden to bear alone. You are both in this together, using your home for the good of God’s world.
It's easy to idolize both the "super mom" identity and the "messy mom" identity—instead, let faithfulness and service be your standard.
The first thing we need to understand regarding why stay at home work matters to God is that God created us for work.
Only God is God, so only God gets his to-do list done at the end of the day.