Russell Gehrlein writes in his book Immanuel Labor that motherhood is indeed a high calling. He looks at Proverbs 31 to show that the mother works for the benefit of others, including her husband, her children and the needy. She is entrepreneurial, conducting business outside the home. She is hard working, putting in long hours and making good use of her time. In the midst of her work she exudes joy. She is a role model, not just for women, but for all workers.
When we talk about work, we usually talk about paid work for some organization. But what about stay at home moms? I’ve been helped in this area by the writings of Courtney Reissig. In her article “When Motherhood Feels Like Death”, she writes that one of the great challenges of motherhood is the lack of a job description. Moms don’t keep normal business hours because their children don’t. Moms don’t have workplace boundaries because they live at work. The tasks are always there, waiting to be done. The children are always there, needing attention, love and training.
In her excellent book Glory in the Ordinary: Why Your Work in the Home Matters to God Reissig writes that moms are tired. They are weary of the pressure to live up to expectations and ideals that no human being could ever attain. On one hand, they hear that their work at home is the pinnacle of greatness, but on the other hand they hear that they are letting down women everywhere by staying home instead of taking advantage of the strides women have made in the workplace. She states that instead of looking at their work as stay at home moms through God’s eyes, many look at it through their own—and wonder if they measure up.She writes that many wonder about the work of a stay at home mom, which leads to several questions:
- Does it matter?
- Is it simply a way to survive?
- Is there something more to see in the dirty diapers, temper tantrums, dishwashing, and the repetitive nature of housework?
- Does it have value?
- Does it serve a greater purpose?
- Or is it too mundane?
- Too daily?
- Too frustrating?
- Is it too inefficient?
She tells us that the way forward to finding meaning in at-home work is by seeing how it fits in the larger scheme of community, culture, and life. She tells us that she has learned that God is glorified in the mundane work as much as He is in the magnificent. In fact, it is the mundane moments, the moments where we live each and every day, where we come to see the true greatness of God and His love for us.
She talks about how at home work is a way to love God by loving others. She quotes Luther who said that if our work is not done for the good of our neighbor, then it is of no real value. At home work is actually a God-given opportunity to serve your neighbor with your good works. It is an opportunity to love others (including your spouse, children, neighbors, aging parents, etc.), in Jesus’s name. Work is not simply about closing a business deal, teaching a class full of children, or discovering a new treatment for a disease. It is also about loving and serving our neighbor.
She writes about the important subject of rest, another way we bear God’s image. After God worked to bring forth creation, he rested. But because of sin, all work exhausts us on some level. Although not a stay at home mom, I appreciated her thought that this side of heaven we will always face the tension of incomplete work in the midst of rest. That is an idea that is good for all of us to embrace.
She states that in our Christian subculture, at-home work is praised as good and faithful work. But, she correctly states, that if you find your hope and identity in folded laundry, a spotless refrigerator, and children who praise you from the rooftops, you have misplaced affections regarding your work.
She helpfully states that Christians work differently, in every kind of work, because we work for the Lord (not others) and we work hopefully (for the future). Its good work, meaningful work and work that matters to God.
So be encouraged if you are doing the work of a stay at home mom!