By the time I get around to writing and posting this, it will be old news, but as you may know, the British Royal Family has been making headlines a lot. Recently I stumbled across a video of a young Meghan Markle, who was assessing messages of commercials for a social studies assignment in school. One of the commercials featured an advertisement for dish soap and specifically singled out women as the ones who would be cleaning pots and pans. Meghan’s response to this, way back in elementary school, was to write to the company in protest of the word “women” and request they change it to the word “people.” As a child, Meghan said, “I don’t think it’s right for kids to grow up thinking these things, that just mom does everything. It’s always, mom does this and mom does that.”
This got me thinking about the fact that society seems to view taking care of the home as an inferior role- and when women are often the ones doing it, it’s seen as unfair. Women shouldn’t be expected to “just” stay home, cooking, cleaning, and taking care of kids. They must be equal to men, which usually means equally represented in the workforce, and men must be expected to equally share in those menial household chores.
According to this mindset, stereotyping women as the ones who are the homemakers and child- rearers automatically labels them as inferior to men. But this is only true because we view those tasks as inferior to earning an income and working outside the home. Society has invented the idea that managing a home is less-than, which means that women must be less-than if they are the ones assumed or expected to be taking on those roles.
So here’s my question- how did we get this idea that taking care of a home, doing household chores, and raising a family is less important, valuable, and praiseworthy than having a traditional career? Is it because you don’t make money doing those things? Is it because it’s mostly behind-the-scenes work, where no one except your family might notice what you’re accomplishing? (And oftentimes they don’t notice either!)
At this point I should probably make a confession: the role of homemaking comes pretty easily to me. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom. I’m not a career-oriented person. I love being home, I have no trouble sticking to chore routines, and I don’t even mind laundry or dishes that much. I know these things can be more of a struggle for people with different personalities and goals.
However, no matter what kind of personality you have, service to others should take a high priority if you are a believer. In many societies, a role of service is not looked at as a valuable or desirable place to be in. But Jesus calls us to a different way of life.
Jesus, the supreme example of humility, described Himself as “the one who serves” (Luke 22:27). In Matthew 23:11-12 He says, “The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” In Mark 10:43b-45, He says again, “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” And in John 13, we have the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, which was ordinarily a job for the lowliest of servants. His purpose in doing this couldn’t be any more clear. He says in verses 14-16 that He has given us an example of service to follow. If the Creator and King of the universe willingly and lovingly serves us, who are we to look at any task as being a burden that is beneath us?
This isn’t an easy thing to do. What is easy is looking at mundane, monotonous, repetitive, unpleasant tasks that no one ever notices, and becoming resentful. It’s easy to find excuses to avoid them. To complain. The people we serve at home (and other places too) often aren’t appreciative of what we do anyway. They don’t deserve our selfless acts of service, especially when they refuse to eat what we’ve made for dinner, put another dirty plate in the sink one second after we finished washing the day’s dishes, and tracked mud through the house that was just vacuumed an hour ago.
Guess who else doesn’t deserve any selfless acts of service?
You. (And me. And everyone.)
And guess who voluntarily served us in the most horrific, excruciating, shameful way ever by giving His life for us in order that we may be saved?
Jesus. And He says, “I have given you an example.”
Cleaning the toilet suddenly doesn’t sound so bad.
We may only have an audience of One most of the time, but it’s the most significant audience we could dream of- the God of the universe, who Himself brought about order and beauty in the act of creation. We echo this in a small way as we bring about order and beauty in our homes. Every little thing you do- changing a diaper, folding laundry, scheduling doctor’s appointments, weeding the garden, cleaning up toys, preparing meals- is seen by God. It is valued by Him. And it will be rewarded.
Our service to others matters. We can do it joyfully, knowing that Christ Himself served us and calls us to do the same. On the hard days (and there will be many), we can pray for Him to give us strength and joy. This attitude is not automatic, and it’s not natural. It takes a radical change of heart to pursue and view service in this way. Over time, the Holy Spirit can change our attitudes from drudgery to delight in having the opportunity to serve our families.
Am I saying that men should have no part in household chores or raising children? Of course not. Service is just as important for men as it is for women. The way this plays out is different for each family. I’m talking about a change in mindset, to not think of any task as being inferior in the eyes of God. To not look at motherhood and homemaking as burdensome things, but as opportunities to serve. The low opinion of these tasks (and thus the low opinion of women being “expected” to do them) has only become prevalent because we as a society do not value service the same way God does. The point is, no matter who is washing the dishes, doing the laundry, making the meals, mopping the floors… whether it’s a man or a woman, these tasks are important, and it is praiseworthy for a person to complete them with a heart of willing and joyful service.
Last week, my son asked me to help him with a toy. I was tempted to say no; I just wanted to sit down and eat breakfast. (Not even 8:00 in the morning, and already I’m being asked to do things for people.) But I knew it wouldn’t take me long to help him, and I had already started writing this post so my own words were fresh in my head, convicting me to not be selfish. As I leaned down to help, I noticed him grinning at me. I said, “What are you doing?” He replied, “Looking at your face.” His silly answer made me smile back, and I asked him why. He said, “Because I like you!”
I don’t know why he felt that way at that moment; maybe it had nothing to do with the fact that I took the time to help him when he asked. But I suspect it may have. And even if it was totally unrelated, and he was just being a cute little 6-year-old, I would’ve missed that interaction if I’d told him no. Sometimes you are rewarded with words of appreciation and love from those you are serving. It’s certainly nice when that happens. But even when it doesn’t, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24).