Part 1: The Lie
When I got married, I thought my life settled. In my immaturity, I thought “I’ve done it! I’ve found my person, made him my husband, and I will have Children. In this, I will find myself, and my life’s purpose. I will not be like those other women who ignore their precious babies for careers or leave their husbands to do most of the cooking.”
“I shall be a Good Wife, and a Good Mother, for surely this is my life’s work, as God has outfitted me with a vagina and gifted me a bread pan.”
Around our 5 year anniversary, I hated myself. I had a child, a nice home, and a loving and attractive spouse. WHY ISN’T EVERYTHING PERFECT YET? Until my child was about 18 months old I wrecked myself out trying to make the house clean enough, the sex sexy enough, the dinners good enough, and the quality time with my kiddo quality enough.
It wasn’t enough. When I succeed I felt exhausted by the idea of tomorrow’s self-inflicted expectations and as if nothing I did lasted for more than five minutes. When I failed I felt worthless. My husband had no idea who he was married to because the woman he’d married was disappearing under a stressed out Stepford wife. I was no longer a person, I was a failure. The more I chased Housewife Sainthood, the more empty I felt, and the further I drifted from God, my husband, and any sort of successful execution of purpose.
I had bought into a lie. A very popular lie that Western Christianity pushes on women possibly more so than it pushes the Proverbs 31 ideal: A Woman’s Sole Purpose In Life Is To Be A Homemaker. This Is Her Purpose & Joy.
There is an increasingly popular and vocal within American “Christianity” that claims a woman cannot be anything besides a mother and a wife. It is this ideology that set me down such a dangerous path early in my marriage. They claim that a woman has no place outside the home, that a woman cannot teach in church, and that she must be submissive to her Husband in all things while leaving out that a husband must also submit to his wife, as we are to submit one to another. In fact, they go as far as to say things like this:
“Simply put, when you want more than motherhood, marriage and homemaking you may want more than the LORD has called you to and that spurs frustrations, unhealthy longings and is an awful drain.”
Well, that’s just wrong. One could even say it’s a lie. A lie that misled teachers tell themselves and then others.
Motherhood is not wrong and homemaking is not a poor choice (I actually personally believe that society would be better if we had more stay at home parents, of either gender and that many women DO put their career over their families. So do many men). I’m a stay at home mom/maid/cook/personal assistant, and honestly, I love my gig.
However, to claim it’s one’s highest or only purpose as a woman, to claim it’s the ideal to which all women should aspire, to try and fit us into this cookie cutter shape of someone who finds deep spiritual meaning in doing the dishes and sees her relationship with God framed by a husband, 2.5 kids, and a minivan is, well, Evil. Big E Evil.
The biggest (but not only) reason this lie is so damaging – weather we’re telling it to ourselves, hearing it from misled people, or from our own mothers – is because it’s close enough to the truth that it’s very easy to get them confused. The confusion looks something like this:
God’s Plan -> Be a Homemaker
Be A Homemaker -> Because it’s God’s Plan.
So close, and still so far. It’s like when I use “CHRISTMAS IN JULY!” as an excuse to binge watch claymation and Bing Crosby, and bake cookies. Honestly, I just wanted the cookies and a TV day with my kid, but “CHRISTMAS IN JULY!” ties it all together. It gives it a purpose it lacked and makes it sound cooler than it is. God is not here to justify the raspberry shortbread and White Christmases of my life.
If one starts with the premise that to serve God is to only do one specific thing, then one is cutting out God at the beginning, and using Him as an excuse to prop up one’s idols, whatever they may be. (Remember, God’s will for Esther was to be part of a haram. God’s will for Mary was to be pregnant outside of marriage. Both things that no “Good Godly Woman” would even consider God’s Will today for any reason.). The lie of Homemaker Sainthood assumes the Will of God and then turns to things other than God for personal fulfillment and identity.
If we step outside of what God has for us, If we assume we know His will due to a Great Big Fat Lie that will make us Holy if we try hard enough, or even when we’re doing what God has to us but look to the task and not the Creator for fulfillment, we find an unfulfilling hot mess of idolatry and unhappiness. Our place with the Saints is bought with the Blood of Christ, it is not earned through home labor, no matter how good our attitude about it is.
Most of the misled teachers sharing this lie that I’ve had experience with tend to double down when there’s trouble. Instead of looking at Jesus, they say that God and Jesus want you to look at your family and home. They claim that self-care is selfish, working outside of the home is not your place, and if you’re still unhappy, you’re just not connecting deeply enough with God while you load the dishwasher, so JUST TRY HARDER! If You’re Exhausted But Your Floors Are Clean You Can’t Be Sad Because Jesus Made You To Clean Them Floors! The Problem Is You!
“….a Biblical homemaker knows her worth, is confident in her skills and she is irreplaceable. This confidence motivates her to go about her tasks and avoid discouragement. In turn, getting things peacefully accomplished at home brings her joy.”
Nope, sorry. That’s hella wrong. Yes, I said Hella. Neither your worth nor the root of your identity are found in Homemaking and Motherhood. If they are, you have wandered from the Savior.
This blogger then goes on to say “Moms who have lost their identity? Our identity is in Christ, not the role He has given us to fulfill. And empty is empty.” but then gives instructions to double down on chores and vilifies any form of self-care or taking time away from the neverending job of homemaking. While I appreciate her attempts, she’s speaking out of both sides of her mouth. There’s a lot of this in misled teachers, I’ve found. Maybe she needs a glass of wine. There’s something weird going on when a “Christian” blogger vilifies doing what Jesus did.
We’ve said it here before, and we’ll say it louder for the kids in the back: YOU CANNOT POUR FROM AN EMPTY CUP. God doesn’t ask you to, either. The temporary world around us – Christian flavored and well-meaning at times, but clearly removed from God – asks that of you. Over and over again in the scripture, God promises rest, Jesus shows us that it’s important to rest and take time in the quiet to be in a relationship with The Father. It’s important to take time and be a unique person with unique desires and interests outside of homemaking and children because that’s who God made you to be. If your family is gone tomorrow, you are still here, and you still have an identity.
Two episodes Sandy and I feel very strongly about are being released this month, and they both are facets of self-care: Sleep and Boundaries. Two things Christ clearly showed us an example of in His life. He took care of himself. He took breaks from the crowd – from His ministry! – to take naps, to eat with His friends, to relax. Do not ask more of yourself than Christ did, because that’s stupid. If Jesus could step back and enjoy a night with friends, so should you.
If you’ve never experienced this Homemaker Sainthood kind of legalism, If you’ve never lost your God-given identity under a to-do list and got a stone from fellow believers when you asked for water, PRAISE GOD! That’s wonderful. I rejoice that your heart has never been bruised in a such a way. I would encourage you to not be so insular and vain that you disregard the hurt of others (that’s been done by “Christians”) or compound that hurt with more legalism because or even mocking simply because you yourself have not experienced such a hurt. Woe to y’all who cause little sheep to stumble, you know?
Many vocal misled teachers take joy in calling the discouragement or even mental illness of others sin. I was that person for years, and it made me ugly inside, and even more unhappy. I’m aware that many do in fact say “We’re not making idols of our families! Hahaha!” while doing exactly that. I don’t really have anything to say to that other than this: Sometimes the biggest lies we tell are the ones we tell ourselves.
I think the reality is that far more women have experienced this lie of Homemaker Sainthood than they realize or are willing to admit to because they think if being a mom and wife doesn’t fill them to the brim that they’re somehow failing, and that they’ve let God down.
Oh Honey, no. Your home and spouse and children cannot bear the weight of your identity and happiness. That is for the Father. The Joy of the Lord is your strength, not the joy of scrubbing toilets. If you look around your dirty house and feel like a failure, you have only failed at chores. That’s it. It’s not a statement of your worth.