In Praise Of Working Wives And Mothers
Praising "worthy women" and establishing an ideal for praiseworthy womanhood, Solomon wrote Proverbs 31:10-31. Among the many virtues of her worthiness is industry.
- "She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands" (V:13).
- "She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard" (V:16).
- "She perceives that her merchandise is profitable" (V:18).
- "She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant" (V:24).
In contrast to the in-home industry that was typical of Solomon's times, the out-of-home industry of jobs and careers is more typical of our times. Resetting Proverbs 31-10-31 into contemporary money-making realities, Solomon is honoring working wives and mothers. This article is written to further reflect on the amazing contributions of wives and mothers who also work outside the home.
"Who Also Work Outside the Home"
The old saying, "A man works from sun to sun, but a woman's work is never done" is painfully accurate. Women who work outside the home are painfully aware of "the second shift," the also in addition to their job or career.
In addition to their jobs in the formal economy, women also engage in a second shift of work at home; they take care of most of the household (cleaning and cooking), childcare (homework, bathing, etc.), and additional family care responsibilities (such as caring for elderly parents).
References to the second shift recognize that working women pull a full first shift outside the home, and then pull another second shift at home. Doing the math, adding a first shift and a second shift equals two full shifts. In fact, working wives and mothers also do most of the work inside their homes.
Changing awareness has enlightened many men to the fact of the second shift and its extra demands. Recognizing that their wives work overtime every day, many men are signing on to the second shift themselves. Many families no longer see housework as women's work, but as work for everyone who lives in the house.
Outside the Home
Outside of their homes, many of our Christian sisters are nurses, bankers, teachers, secretaries, clerks/administrators/coordinators, and business owners. They "rise while it is yet night" (Prov. 31:15). They "do not eat the bread of idleness" (Prov. 31:27).
And their "works praise" them (Prov. 31:31). Several of our sisters who work outside of the home are very highly respected for what they do. Earning money, they have also earned professional praise. "Her husband also, and he (better) praise her" (Prov. 31:28).
If You Want To Get Something Done...
There is another old saying - "If you want to get something done, ask someone who is busy." There is something about being busy that breaks down the barrier to becoming busier still. Once people get their motor running, they find that they are able to keep their motor running pretty fast. Idleness is a habit. So is industry.
Some people remain in idle, but not worthy women. After her first shift outside the home, and her second shift of housework, she is still able to shift into a third shift. "She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue" (Prov. 31:26).
In a predictable corollary to "If you want to get something done, ask someone who is busy," church leaders know that if you want to get a Bible class taught, a project led, or a special task completed, they are wise to ask a sister whose works elsewhere praise them. At the Liberty Church of Christ, the third shift of church work is filled by women who take a deep breath after their first two shifts, and then keep plowing ahead.
Reflected Glow - Where Does It Come From?
They run in pairs. They really do.
Again regarding the worthy woman, Solomon said, "Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land" (Prov. 31:23). Something about the industry of the worthy woman rubs off on her worthy husband, making him even more worthy. Or is it the industry of the worthy husband that has rubbed off on his worthy wife? In fact, multi-shift men and multi-shift women seem to attract each other. They have a way of challenging each other. Their glow is mutual.
Many women have done excellently, but our sisters who fill the three shifts of (i) housework, (ii) work outside the home, and (iii) church work surpass them all (see Prov. 31:29). We are amazed at their energy and industry. We are indebted to them for their contributions of time and talent.