Depending on your context, the statement “that’s just women’s work” can either be a put-down or a source of pride. Much like the “play like a girl” saying, putting gender on a specific task can often diminish its value—or raise it. Few things have contributed to the devaluing of the work of the home like calling it “women’s work.” Few things have contributed to the burden and stress countless women feel every day because the work of the home is seen as “just women’s work.”
But the work of the home is for everyone. The home isn’t just filled with women or mothers. It’s often filled with children and a husband. Sometimes it’s filled with other family members and houseguests, too.
Let the Men Help
For a long time the work of the home has been brushed aside as “women’s work.” As one who sees my home as my primary responsibility, I see how this can happen. But the biblical commands pertaining to child-rearing and hospitality are for both genders. Fathers are specifically commanded not to exasperate their children, which shows they are involved with their children (Eph. 6:4). Elders are specifically commanded to be hospitable (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8). Cleaning and caring for children isn’t for women only.
My primary work may be my home, and my responsibility may make me the one who bears the majority weight of it all, but that doesn’t mean I’m the sole worker in the home. When the work of the home is for everyone, then our identity isn’t destroyed when our husband helps around the house. We’re able to understand and embrace that he’s a contributor too.
When the work of the home is for everyone, then our identity isn’t destroyed when our husband helps around the house.
A friend shared how she feels when her husband does anything around the house. Because the home is “her job,” she feels like she alone must do it all:
I often feel like my husband shouldn’t have to do any of the domestic tasks because he has been working all day—and I haven’t, or at least not as much or as hard (so I think). So I feel guilty when he does the dishes or sweeps the floor or takes out the trash. But the fact is, not every responsibility in the home is my responsibility, and a lot of times my husband is just trying to be kind and serve me. This should cause me to feel loved, not guilty.
One of the ways we fight our sinfulness in our work is to let others help us. So how can husbands help?
It’s not a “mom fail” if my husband watches the kids while I go write or speak, have coffee with a friend, or grocery shop alone. I won’t get more jewels in my crown in heaven if I do it all by myself. In fact, my husband is just as responsible for the outcome of my kids’ faith as I am. He’s just as responsible for how our neighbors are loved by us as I am. He’s just as responsible for bringing order out of chaos in the mundane and ordinary tasks of our home as I am. He may not do it as much as I do, but that doesn’t change the fact it takes a whole family to make our home to flourish. (And if I’m honest with myself, he’s much better at the household chores than I am.)
The “who is doing it” debates have only increased these feelings of identity loss. When we make the home so much about our personal fulfillment and identity, and we let someone else do the work of the home, we feel as if our very self is being replaced or overshadowed.
Anne-Marie Slaughter says that “being needed is a universal desire and the traditional coin in which mothers have been compensated . . . It is one thing to let go of the housekeeping. Quite another to relinquish being the center of your children’s universe.”
Faithfulness in the ordinary, even when it’s hard, is true greatness.
And isn’t that what we feel like we’re losing when we let anything go? Slaughter goes on to say that this idea that mothers do everything is actually a newer phenomenon, one that came into existence only in the last 100 years. Fathers traditionally have been as involved in the caregiving as mothers, just in different ways. In societies where farming is the key industry, everyone learns some aspect of the work of the home from both mother and father. It’s only when fathers left for work and mothers stayed home to raise the children that this sharp divide about who’s doing the work emerged.
So let your husband help. Maybe he won’t do certain tasks the way you would do them. (Who ever does things the same way as another person, anyway?) But the home is his, too. The kids are his, too. You all are part of the collective unit called the home.
At the end of the day, we will not be judged on how well we cleaned our floors, how many flowers we planted in our yard, how many activities our kids were involved in, or how many times we played trains on the floor with our 3-year-old. We won’t even be judged on whether we divided housework and childcare along traditional gender lines. Those things may be good and beneficial, but they won’t save us.
What will mark us is faithfulness.
Did we do our work “as unto the Lord” (Col. 3:23–24) rather than for the praise of the mom or dad next door? Did we recognize true sin in our work and did we repent of it? Did we acknowledge our finiteness and limitations and respond with humility to them?
Being supermom isn’t the fast track to heaven or the “good parent list.” But faithfulness in the ordinary, even when it’s hard, is true greatness. This faithfulness points to something we can’t always see with our limited vision. It’s part of something much grander than we often understand. We’re all called to be faithful in the work of the home, men and women alike.
Editors’ note: This is an adapted excerpt from Glory in the Ordinary: Why Your Work in the Home Matters to God (Crossway, 2017).