Housewife Theologian

The Gospel Interrupting the Ordinary

Housewives and Paychecks

Written By: Aimee Byrd - Jul• 26•12

Here’s one of my favorite articles from last summer for you to read while I’m busy burying my kids up to their heads in sand today.

Women are living in a very strange era.  We’ve rebelled against entrapping traditional stereotypes, and now we are in the aftermath of liberal feminism.  Yet here we are with more choices than ever and even more consternation about our role in society.   Most of us do not want to be identified with Mrs. Cleaver or Hilary Clinton.  Frankly, we want the positive home life and relationships of the Cleavers, but we also recognize our ambition to serve our communities alongside our neighbors.  Striving to find our niche and fulfill our role in both our families and communities, we are growing weary.  This weariness was on my mind as I listened to Tim Keller’s sermon on work and rest.

I believe the latest estimate of a housewife’s worth is about 135 K a year.  Yes, I know, there are so many things wrong with this statement.  But, on the other hand, I think a major struggle for stay-at-home moms is the lack of a pay check.  Hear me out before you judge my greediness or call me a feminist.

I am currently a stay-at-home mom (please don’t make me say homemaker).  I have also worked outside the home earlier in my marriage.  Everyone knows how hard housewives work, and where I am in my own busyness; I admire you mom’s who pull off outside work as well.  You know that when you get off work you are still on the clock at home.  I try to tell the kids that mommy has punched out her time card for the day, but they continue to need me anyway.  We go from short order cook to chauffeur, nurse, fashion consultant, hostess, educator, entertainer, economist, laundry service, housecleaner, conflict manager…moms wear many hats.

Sometimes we may feel a little jipped that no one noticed our one day feat of cleaning the kitchen seven times, devotions with the kids, entertaining guests, working out, removing gum from hair, washing three loads of laundry, feeding all the neighbors kids, and making dinner with fresh picked ingredients from the garden.  Other jobs offer compensation for time served in the form of a paycheck.  It’s very gratifying.  They also get to be acknowledged for their work in some form of evaluation several times a year.  My only written proof of something I’ve contributed to our family is the amount you saved today typed on my Martin’s receipt.  And I wave it in the air with pride.

So what do I do?  More.  I do more because I might not be doing enough.  My husband seems to think I’m great, but I have this compelling force inside of me that wants to be better at what I do.  Whether housewives have outside work or not, we all feel compelled to be Superwoman.  I think this is why women on Facebook like to tell us what they’re making for dinner, or that they ran three miles today.  Someone will have to take notice that they made homemade peach cobbler or cleaned the grout in their tile all afternoon.  What a great little resume that can be built on a Facebook profile.  We need to stand out, to get that societal promotion that we rock at this whole pro bono housewife gig.  People may take notice of our stellar contributions.

Keller’s sermon highlights how driven our society is to succeed.  We constantly work for the accomplishment and praise we are seeking.  Many times it is a promotion or some other recognition that will push us ahead.  Hopefully, it will fill us with the meaning and value that we are aiming to receive from our hard labors.  But it doesn’t.  Only Christ can do that.  He is our full satisfaction.  He alone is sufficient.

This lesson may be easier for the housewife.  We can never fully rest from the chores that need to be done, or the kids that need our attention.  We constantly feel like big, fat failures in our attempts to be the perfect wife and mother.  This is particularly when I need to be reminded that God (the only one I need to impress) looks at me, and on the account of Christ, he is utterly satisfied.  I can rest in the work of Christ.  There is no Superwoman ideal that I need to attain.  Now I am liberated to serve him in gratitude, knowing that He is my reward.  Not earning a paycheck and not having specific days off (sigh) may compel me all the more to really evaluate what I think I’m earning for myself.  Then I can realize that I don’t keep the world running, and I can rest in the One who does.

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  1. Kim Shay says:

    The whole issue of staying at home versus work is more easily dealt with if people understood vocation better. It may be a woman’s vocation to be a nurse, but it is also her vocation to be a mother if she has children. God gives us vocation, and everyone’s vocation is specific, and changes. It was my vocation to be a homeschool mother; it isn’t everyone’s. It is my vocation to be a mother at home with no children around. It is my vocation to teach a woman’s bible study. When we focus less on other women and more on our vocations, there can be less room for comparison and grumbling.

    I do think for some women the lure of the job is a paycheck. I also think the lure is the prestige and the definition of herself in the context of a job. I’ve met some pretty condescending working women, who think I know nothing about the world because I haven’t worked outside the home. I’m simply living my vocation.

    • Aimee Byrd says:

      Good point about vocation, Kim. Every married woman is a housewife. Whether we work outside the home or not, we share in our main vocation as a our husband’d helper. The atmosphere and culture we cultivate in our homes is a major part of this.

  2. Ian Thompson says:

    Whenever I hear that comment about “housewives are worth $135,000 a year when you add up what they do” I am always tempted to answer “could we add up the husbands role as well and see what that comes to – let’s throw in plumber, carpenter, mechanic, painter, chauffeur, gardener, lawncare, builder. . .” – add that to his day job and see what that comes up to. But where is all that extra money supposed to come from because we already factored in the paycheck!? This also does not include the Father’s most important roles – being Dad and spiritual leadership . . . priceless.
    It is just so wrong-headed to think of families in this way – as a list of services. Families are a form of community and should be treated as such. In communities we give of ourselves to each other. In our family the money is always ours – we decide what to do with it together – and it’s only ours in the sense that we are stewards of it. If my wife ever says that it’s my money, I will correct her and say “No honey, it only comes to us because we are in this together.” So let’s please not get into discussions about dividing up the spoils as as soon as you divide the money, you divide the family.

    • Aimee Byrd says:

      It is wrong-headed, Ian. And I think you nailed it with the word “stewardship.” My proclivity to focus on my own accomplishments always leaves me unsatisfied because they are meaningless when viewed through such a selfish lens. We aren’t earning something for ourselves, we are blessed in Christ. This is the love that husbands and wives can joyfully serve with.
      I wasn’t particularly thinking in terms of dividing the money, but that is a good point about dividing up the family. That also extends to wanting credit for each and every contribution we make as well.
      The whole idea of determining a mother’s worth in monetary terms (or a man’s as you so aptly put it) is wrong because our worth is not found in what we do, but who we are in Christ–thankfully!

    • Emily says:

      “you divide the money, you divide the family”

      What a great insight!

  3. Aimee,
    Have you read Stacey Eastin’s book “The Organized Heart”? It helped me so much with my thoughts, organization and theology.

  4. Paula says:

    The facebook comment struck a chord with me. I am no longer on facebook, and that is one of the reasons. I was posting my whole day, my meal plans, pictures of the cake I baked….I posted a picture of a meatloaf once! (It was a particularly attractive meatloaf, though). I hadn’t thought about it in terms of just wanting to show that I DID do something of value that day.

  5. Tim says:

    Great thought provoking again, Aimee. Here’s the way I look at it in my marriage: I do stuff, my wife does stuff, I’m not keeping a tally (monetary or otherwise). I bet Matt’s not either.

    • Aimee Byrd says:

      You’re right, Tim; Matt’s definitely not keeping a tally. Actually, since he does so much for our family and is so wonderful to me, that makes me want to do even more for him.

  6. alan says:

    The filial fear of God being central to the life, kept up by prayerful bible study and eyeing God in all things, even cross-providences, remains the ground upon which we begin to walk before God and to know and understand more fully our position and place in life, which is hard for young Christians to fathom out, with so much neo-evangelicalism about. We do discover, along life’s way, that we have a God-given talent, even as unbelievers have, which talent we must put to best use by excercising it. The house wife that makes a perfect home is more of a witness for God than most ministers, these days. The same can be said of a street cleaner, an assembly line worker. It is false to think, as is common, that ministers are more peculiarly loved of God. Positions may be different, but God loves each and every one of us the same. Did not the Puritans have it right, in the Great Ejection, that the only thing that separated ministers of God from laymen of God, was but office? this has now been cast out for the “great evangelist” of showmanship. God continues to love each and everyone of us equally, gives us each individual talents to be employed in, not all arms, not all legs.

What do you think?