We All Have a Job to Do
Often, when we think of the work of the home, we think of stay-at-home moms and the small children that fill their homes. But the care of people extends far beyond the little years, though it is a largely overlooked aspect of care in our society. One of the ways we see we aren’t alone in our work is by hearing the stories of others. Below are some stories of the variety of ways at-home work impacts a family and society.
How the Family Reflects the Church
Melissa Kruger watched her mother care for her grandfather and great-uncle for many years in their home. What began as a temporary situation lasted far beyond what their family expected. At one point both men were unable to use the stairs, so her mother had the hospital beds set up right in their living room. While her mom also worked full time as a teacher, Melissa and her brother had to be invested in the work of the home for everything to continue to run smoothly. She says:
I also saw how beneficial it was, not just for my Grandfather and Uncle Jimmy, but for my brother and me. We all had to help out with household chores because there simply wasn’t time enough for my parents to do everything. It taught me that for the home to run well, everyone in the family needed to help and participate. It was my first experience of what life in the church would be like: many members all serving together, with everyone needed and everyone having a role.
We all have a job to do in this vital work, to love one another, and to contribute to the world that God has made.
The Value of the Brick and Mortar
Like Melissa, Bethany Jenkins's mom used her home to serve others in a variety of ways. Even when her children were grown and in school, her home was the base of operations for her service to the community. Bethany has come to see this unseen work as a vital part of the flourishing of society.
If the community is a brick wall, full-time workers are the bricks, and at-home workers are the mortar. Full-time workers provide the foundational "bricks" of a community—banking, teacher, shipping, grocery store stocking, etc. The "mortar" fills in the cracks and, in so doing, keeps the bricks together. The problem is when the mortar's role is overlooked or diminished, as if it's not indispensable to the community, or when the brick's role is seen as suspect or competitive. As Christians, if we're going to make disciples of all nations, we need each other, and we need to affirm each other about our particular roles in the kingdom.
When in Doubt, Care for the Needs of Your Household
Lore Wilbert works from home as a freelance writer, so while her days are filled with a variety of things, one of those things is the work of the home. Since her days as a single woman, the work of the home has been important to her, but she is learning in new ways in these early years of marriage how the work of the home is a vital contribution to society:
At the end of Little Women, Friedrich Bhaer says, “But I have nothing to give you. My hands are empty!” Jo puts her hands in his and says, “Not anymore.” I think of my life like that a lot. My hands feel empty much of the time, not because they are, but because my work feels empty or meaningless. But a friend told me shortly after I got married, “If you look around and feel torn in a million directions and aren’t sure what you’re supposed to be doing, “Care for the needs of your household,” it’s that simple.” I’ve gone back to that hundreds of times this year. What is in my hands are the needs of my household and that is contributing to society, whether it looks like it or not. Right now, I’ve been entrusted with this home, this husband, this work, this same bed making every day. That is my contribution and it is not a small one. As insignificant as Josephine March’s hands might have looked in Professor Bhaer’s, they were capable of, as she said earlier in the book, “A great many things.”
Scripture Doesn't Divide Work
Jake Hilburn is a husband, father, and teacher. While the work of the home is often sharply divided along gender lines, Scripture doesn’t divide it as clearly. Of course, in many instances, there is a primary parent who does the bulk of the work because they are actually home more, but as Jake explains, both husband and wife are responsible for the work.
The work of the home, in my opinion, is to be completed by both husband and wife, because both will be held responsible for the work of the home. On the last day we will be rewarded by the way that we serve one another in Christ, both inside and outside the home, and I do not see any limits or boundaries in scripture on what that service entails. The work of the home, if to be in servitude and submission to one another in Christ, means that both parents are not only responsible for all aspects of the work, but also requires a certain eagerness to do things that one or the other are not necessarily gifted in. Typical examples can be the husband cooking or cleaning, or the wife paying bills and mowing the yard.
He sees this as having long-term impact on children, not just in helping them also to become contributors, but also in showing them that the work of the home is for both the mom and the dad.
Think of what children see when they see their father working just as hard in the home as their mother. If they see him working in what they know is not his most gifted area, yet still fully and with a humble heart, they will learn lessons that can hardly be taught in a classroom or even through their own personal experience without first seeing it displayed.
Whether you are a husband or wife, have small children or older children, or have aging family members with you, the work of the home is a family effort. We all have a job to do in this vital work, to love one another, and to contribute to the world that God has made.
At-home work differs from a typical 9-to-5 job, but that doesn't mean it isn't hard work.
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.