I am a working mom—my work is enjoyable, and it contributes essential income to our family’s finances. But it’s hard to get everything done when many of my hours are spent on work. I already pay for childcare and grocery-delivery service, and in the past I’ve paid someone to clean my house. I feel guilty about all of those things. (But, perhaps ironically, I don’t feel bad at all about paying someone to clean my kids’ teeth or give them a haircut.) How much outsourcing is too much? How do I decide which things to pay someone else for and which tasks to do myself?
Moms everywhere are quietly nodding their heads at the mere mention of “mom guilt.” Conflicting cultural expectations bounce around our heads, making us feel like we can never get it right. (Dads feel a similar pressure, of course.)
Let’s consider a new framework for thinking through these decisions, one that’s rooted in our calling to be disciples and to make disciples of our children.
Reflecting God’s Presence
The time that we invest nurturing our children’s faith—both personally and also with our church community—is vital to discipleship. In order to do this, we must be present with our kids. We cultivate their relational-emotional-spiritual centers through having unhurried time to know them, pray for them, and teach them the Word. This, of course, requires a ton of time.
When we invest in services that ease the burden of housework, rather than feeling guilty, we can thank God for the precious time it gives us with our family. What a gift!
Reflecting God Through Sweeping
I could end my answer there and relieve the tension, but discipleship also happens in the tangible stuff of life. Kids need to see and engage physical realities to know what God is like. Since God is the first worker, we can communicate a lot about who he is through the work we do around the home.
Since God is the first worker, we can communicate a lot about who he is through the work we do around the home.
When I became a mom, I struggled to find joy in the repetition of daily tasks. I knew Christ rejoices in the mundane, and I wanted to model this for my daughter. So we started singing about how sweeping glorifies God. Just as God sends the rains to wash away dust and grime from the floor of the earth, so we sweep up dirt and dog hair, displaying his intimate care. Then we remember Jesus, who came and made himself a servant by scrubbing dirt from the feet of his closest friends, as a foretaste of the day when he’d sweep away sin and death from the world forever.
In the true story we live in, the resurrection re-enchants every moment. How we engage daily housework can point to the true kingdom ruled by Christ, who came in the flesh and served sacrificially.
Don’t forget that you live in a little community. Sharing tasks with your family can be a way to not only teach responsibility to your children but to also join together in a common cause. And sometimes, swapping tasks or readjusting the workload can bring its own joy.
For example, my husband loves to cook. It’s a chance for him to be creative after a mentally and emotionally taxing shift. He has fun including our toddler in the process, teaching her about God’s world in the process.
What are some ways you could work together as a family to cultivate your home? Maybe caring for a garden could provide an opportunity to talk about gospel realities, such as life through death and being rooted in Christ. Maybe turning on the worship music and turning everyone loose to clean a different room would provide both dancing and also clean spaces.
Rather than thinking of cleaning bathrooms as meaningless drudgery, think of tasks in the home as a chance to glorify God with your hands and together subdue the little piece of creation he’s given you.
Reflecting God Through What We Value
We all go through seasons when there are not enough hours—or helping hands—to get the daily tasks completed in a timely manner. In this case, employing help is a great idea.
Oftentimes housecleaners, landscapers, and childcare providers aren’t well-compensated or celebrated in our culture. But God deeply values their work.
Rather than feeling guilty, consider this an incredible opportunity to reflect the way of the kingdom to your kids.
First, you’re admitting you’re not enough. On your own, you aren’t invincible or omnicompetent. You don’t have the capacity to handle all the work on your to-do list. Asking for help can be a matter of showing wisdom, not weakness.
Second, you can model the value system of God’s kingdom, which is drastically different from the way of the world. Oftentimes housecleaners, landscapers, and childcare providers aren’t well-compensated or celebrated in our culture. But God deeply values their work. You get to reflect the God who rejoices over their good work through fair pay, gracious oversight, and intentional affirmation.
Maybe you can invite your kids to write a note to thank them for using the gifts God has given them. Be intentional to share how grateful you are for ways they have mastered their craft and bless your family.
Most Important Work Is Finished
In closing, as a fellow mama, I want to leave you with these words: Christ’s finished work has freed us from needing to be or do more in order to retain his favor. The cultural gospel of running ourselves ragged is bad news.
The good news, meanwhile, invites us to receive the finished work of Christ on our behalf, and to rejoice over ways we can partner with others to seek the flourishing of our families and communities.
TGC’s “Thorns & Thistles” column seeks to apply wisdom with practical advice about faith, work, and economics. If you have a question on how to think about and practice your work in a way that honors God, let us know at [email protected]