by Susan Mink Colclough
What a silly question, huh? Sometimes I wish I wasn't "allowed" to work and had nothing to do but lie around on my sun porch sippin' mint juleps all day. Wouldn't that be lovely? But I do work and so does every other mother out there. So the question I suppose is more about money. Should married women and mothers work for money or work only at caring for their homes, children, and husband? Or maybe making money is fine...after all the Proverbs 31 woman made money, didn't she? Maybe the issue is where a woman works. It's fine to work from your own home but not to go out of your home to work...but that doesn't seem logical. No one is saying that women are literally never to leaves their homes. What if I work from home but occasionally have to go to the post office to mail something or a college nearby to teach a class...? What if I start a little company selling hairbows over the internet and the company takes off? Am I allowed to hire staff? Rent a storefront? Take some business courses? Or must I insist that my husband give up his job and come home to be the CEO of our hairbow empire?
I'll admit that I've thought lots of times that women should stay home, especially women with small children. I really do believe that the best place for little ones is in their own home with their own mommy. I adore being home with my kids and I honestly can't imagine what it would be like to have to go back to work 9 to 5, 5 days a week and leave them in daycare. I feel deeply for women who must live that way when they'd much rather be at home with their little ones. All of that is why I was so astonished at the sheer excitement I felt when I heard Sarah Palin was going to be John McCain's running mate.
Was I selling out my ideals? Or, infinitely worse, was I selling out God's Word? I know all the reasons why I think Sarah Palin would make an excellent VP. I also believed that women should be "at home." But what I realized was that I didn't really know why. In puzzling it out I've read what the Bible says and I've read what others I respect say that the Bible says. And while I won't pretend to have figured it all out, I have a much clearer picture of what I believe.
Voddie Baucham, who I greatly respect, has written an interesting article about the Proverbs 31 woman (I wish she had a name!) refuting that she is a Biblical example of a "career gal" and he makes some excellent points. I agree that the argument that she had a career in the way we define it is pretty thin. And certainly nothing in Proverbs 31 negates Titus 2 where women are called to be "busy (or keepers in the KJV) at home." The way I see it, Mrs. P31 is doing all of the things she's doing...making sashes, buying a vineyard, etc...to take care of her family. The vineyard would've been an excellent investment for a family who who ate raisins and drank wine, much like a modern wife might buy a cow for her family. The money from the sashes probably went to buy things for her household...they same way I sold too small clothes at a consignment store and used the money to buy clothes my kids will need for this fall. She's using her talents and skills to run her home and serve her family. What if she were to take on other jobs in the process of serving her family and her community? In this day and time that might mean serving in her church or in a charitable organization or in the neighborhood school. It might mean beginning a business to provide something her family or community needs. Maybe she's concerned about the quality of water her family drinks so she starts a bottled water company or she's concerned about the environment her children will inherit so she starts lobbying her government about it. Sometimes taking care of our home can lead us out of our homes. The thing that matters most, I believe, is a woman's heart attitude. Is she trying to find self-fulfillment? Make more money to have more things? Escape? Feel important? Is she putting her own ambition before the family God has given her? Or is she trying to follow God's call on her life? Trying to serve? And, perhaps most telling, do her husband and children feel cared for?
In Proverbs 31, since her husband and children praise her, we can assume she was doing a good job and no one felt that her vineyard or sash-making was taking up too much of her time.
Now I know, for me, taking care of my husband and kids and home and serving my extended family and church family is all I am able to do. It takes all of my time and energy and focus. Actually, scratch that. It's much, much more than I can do in my own power. But I don't try to do it in my own power (well, I do sometimes, but that's usually a disaster and not worth talking about right now). God gives me what I need to do this job because He's called me to do this job. I have to believe it is the same with any job He calls us to do. And so that is where I've landed. Should most wives be at home with their children? Probably. It's a big, big important job and we need to get it right. But each woman must do what God calls her to do - regardless of the cultural norms. For many of us bucking the culture means staying home. But some women will have to buck the sub-culture...the one that says women are only "allowed" to work at home. Because it is possible that God may call a woman to run an organization or a business or a country. And if a woman is called by God, then we would do well to support her.