Friday, December 12, 2008

Combating the "You Should Get Out of the House More" Mentality

Let's be willing to say it like it is: as moms of young children, the best place for us to be is at home.

That's just the truth. One can find all sorts of arguments about having the right to be elsewhere, exceptions (a widowed or abused single mom) and more, but the overarching, general truth is -- and we all know it -- children are happiest and best raised when mom is home with them and engaged in their daily lives.

It's strange that it's politically incorrect to say that moms are needed. At home. To be there for their children.

No one has a problem with a boss who says things like, "Jim is the reason for this company's success." Or, "Sandy holds th
is office together." No one gripes and says it's demeaning for a worker to be needed in their job. So why is there a cultural problem with saying that moms are needed by their children? It's the truth. And, interestingly, that is what God tells young women that they need to learn: to be "working at home", loving their children.

It can be good to attend a ladies' Bible study. It can be beneficial to be a part of a co-op or playgroup. It can be wonderful to get together with a friend. These things can be quite beneficial. But on the whole, more often than not, young moms should be at home. God has given the privilege of conceiving, birthing, and nursing children to young women, and it is only for a season.

"They" are always saying all sorts of things, aren't they? There are an abounding number of loud voices telling us that we "need" to get out... that we can't be mentally, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually satisfied and stimulated at home... that our self-worth depends on having individual aims that are separate and distinct from who we are and what we do in our homes. And all too often, we believe it.

Some take it so far to say that if we have a brain, we ought to be using it for society. That other people can raise our children for us (because that's mindless work), so that we can contribute to the surrounding community (as though raising hard-working, honest, God-fearing children isn't a significant contribution). But even without these feminist notions in our brains, we still hear the common refrain: "You need to get out of the house more." Even within very godly circles, young moms can easily feel that what they are doing in their daily lives at home is not really the most faithful, godly thing they could be doing.

But what kind of world is it, really, where women are encouraged to feel negatively about being home with the very people who need them most? Where women are encouraged to get away from moments that bring great joy and delight? Where women are made to feel that their minds are only fully used outside the home? Where women are made to feel guilty when they choose to use their intellect and passion to infuse the minds of the next generation with a strong moral foundation, good common sense, and a broad, wise understanding of the world around them?

It is lousy, unbiblical advice that encourages women to abandon the God-appointed place of their sanctification and usefulness to Him.
And for young moms, generally, that place is in the home.

Our homes ought not be run according to the principles, wisdom, and priorities of the world. Even as Christians, this is an easy trap to fall into.

Sometimes it's difficult... minister's wives, for example, may be pressured or expected to take on more than they should while having young children at home. Young mothers who display any sort of spiritual depth will likely be asked to teach Sunday school classes, head up ministries, or contribute time and energy to "good" things. Young moms are often actively encouraged to join groups like MOPS, scrapbooking clubs, ladies' Bible studies, or other fine and fun activities.

It can be hard to discern what God wants us to do when other people are so vocal in telling us what we "need" to be doing. It may require that we learn to say "no". We may need to learn to graciously but unapologetically stand up for what God reveals in His word-- that God's general plan for young moms is to be doing the basics-- loving their husbands, loving their children, exercising self-control, living purely, and working at home, offering kindness to others and submission to their own husbands. It's not popular, but following God almost never is.

And sometimes you can even get lambasted for it by other Christians... that you need to be doing "more". Sometimes it is the very people who ought to be encouraging us to stay home-- the "older women" mentioned in Titus 2-- that ask or encourage us to be away from our homes. But regardless of who's doing the asking, we need to take to heart the things that God would have us learn and do as younger women, and implement these things into our lives.

When you are discipling little souls and training them to love Jesus while wiping their noses, tying their shoes, and cutting their meat into smaller
bites, you ARE "doing more". It is a HUGE thing to be daily in contact with one or more young disciples that you are loving and training up in their faith. It is a HUGE thing to be available to answer their queries, tell them a Bible story, listen to lengthy explanations about the purpose of a new toy creation, or to pray with them at night when they are scared. It is a HUGE thing to be, daily and hourly, earning the trust and respect of a little person, so that they might later all the more fully trust and respect Christ.

It is a HUGE thing to "just" spend time with your children. Christ Himself spent three entire years with 12 grown men and some of them still took a while to really get it. And let's not forget that it wasn't all miracles and parables... sometimes, Jesus & His disciples were just sitting around eating fish, or taking a nap in the hull of a ship.

We as moms are given (Lord willing, if we are blessed to watch them grow into adulthood) potentially 18-20 years of daily interaction with our children. We are privileged to pray for and with them, "study" them-- learning their personality, their strengths & weaknesses, their skills, their interests-- and, in so doing, offer wise guidance as counsel as they grow, and serve them with kind affection. Spending time together, watching, teaching, learning, and loving-- these are no small things.

Should I strive to "get out of the house more"?
Sometimes I struggle here, particularly in an overseas setting-- I want to be able to communicate with my neighbors better. I wish I had more time for Turkish study. I would enjoy being able to share deeper things and communicate more clearly, instead of at a toddler-level of communication in this language. There is a natural pull there for me.

And sometimes, well-meaning others even give me that oft-offered advice, "you should get out of the house more". I know that from the outside, mine seems like a very cloistered life.

But right now, I have four small children... four little people I get to communicate with every single day. Four souls that I can impact and disciple every single day. Three men and one woman who I can begin influencing and shaping right now. I am doing big things and changing the world by discipling those that God has put into my immediate sphere of influence. And it's a job no one else can do in the way that God has equipped me to do.

Whether or not the world salutes it, whether or not the Christians around us value it, there is high value and eternal significance to this work of motherhood.

Day-in, day-out motherhood is not for the faint of heart. Our culture whispers lies about it, saying it's easy, insignificant, or that anyone can do it. But the difficulty of it lies in the facts about it-- very few do it for the long-haul, and even fewer do it well.

I want to be one that crosses the finish line with exuberance. One that struggles through even the hardest of times with God's peace and joy, and thankfully walks through the good times. One who is a reliable, rock-solid source of comfort, strength, wisdom, and encouragement (all drawn from the wells of God's word) for my husband and children. One that doesn't come up with excuses of why I am the exception in God's plan for younger women. One who yields to the demands of the Potter who knows much better than I do what I was made for... I am striving to be a young mom who says, "yes, Lord. Yes. Here am I. Use me."


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