Chapter 6 - The Honour of Working at Home

I must admit that if I'd read this book a few years ago, I would not have been impressed with this chapter. Staying at home was not going to be my 'lot in life', I would say (patronisingly) to my mother. I was meant for better things! In fact, I still remember a conversation I had with my dad when he gently suggested that I may not ever use my law degree - that I may end up being married to a missionary in China, or decide to stay at home and raise my kids! I told him emphatically, through tears, that I was sure that God's plans for me involved me using my law degree for some 'greater good' than that.

I feel quite ashamed when I think of that story, but it's reassuring to see how God's been changing me - it has taken me a long time, but I think I have come to see the eternal significance of a day spent serving God on such a small stage, so invisible to the world.

That being said, I think there are two dangers I still need to watch out for as a stay-at-home mother of young kids -

1. Career envy

Although I feel happy with my decision to be at home with my kids, and thankful that God has blessed us with the financial resources to make that possible, I find that there are moments when I feel envious of women who have 'careers'. Sometimes, when I look at others I went through school and uni with, who now have interesting (and better paid!) jobs where they get lots of encouragement, get to wear nice clothes, get flown to exotic locations etc, my life seems a little boring. And sometimes, I get a little glimpse of how my friends who have chosen that path must see me - and I don't like how foolish I appear to them!

When this sort of career envy strikes, the temptation is to indulge it with a spell of self-pity or a bout of self-righteousness, or to become perfectionist and competitive about the kids, because they are my career-substitute ("I gave up a highly paid career for you, so the least you can do is be gifted/perfect/saintly...!").

I must be careful that I continue to fight against this, and be content in my situation, and find my joy in Jesus, not in my accomplishments!

2. House-worship

The other trap I fear in my situation as a stay-at-home mum is to focus so much on the 'beautification' of my home that my house becomes my idol. I'm not denying the importance of the mundane activities of keeping my house clean and my family clothed and fed. "Whatever you do...", Paul says in Colossians 3:23, you should do with all your heart. Sweeping a room and changing a nappy can be acts of worship and beautiful in God's sight.

But there is a difference between housework (as a way of serving a family and making a house a hospitable, welcoming home) and houseworship. Haggai has some pretty damning things to say about the Israelites of his day, who spent more energy (and money) on panelling their houses than on building God's temple. The most important way in which I serve God and help my husband as a stay-at-home mum, in this season of my life, is by caring for kids and teaching them to love and follow Jesus. And hand in hand with this (and part of this task, I believe), there are so many ways I can use my home for ministry, and use my flexible time (especially as the kids get older) to be a blessing in the wider community and promote the cause of the gospel.

I must not let my ultimate goal be a beautiful home - a magazine-picture home that my family isn't comfortable in and visitors aren't welcome in, which diverts my time and energy and money away from things which are far more important in the sight of God.

If I have a clear vision of what my goals are in all my 'busyness' at home, I'll know better how to make the everyday decisions of how to spend my time. So (in the years to come) I expect and hope that there will be times when the washing up doesn't get done until the afternoon because I'm teaching Scripture that day, or we have baked beans on toast for dinner because I've been talking to one of my children about a difficult thing that happened at school.

My worry is that if I'm too focussed on the immediate domestic agenda without seeing where it fits into a bigger vision of the kingdom of God, then I'll fail in my ultimate task. I liked what John Piper said about motherhood recently:

The women who flourish most and who delight most in that calling—and who are best at it—are not women whose lives are circumscribed by their houses. They are women who are aware of the world. They're aware of God's global purpose. They're aware of the ultimate purposes of God in history. They're aware of things in history and in the far off reaches of the world today that God is doing. And those are part of what they want to build into these children. They want to raise global Christians, world Christians.

A mother will delight most in the little baby in front of her when she has a vision of God and a vision of the world that's big enough to admit that this little child has a destiny in front of him or her and might become this or that.

If she is totally circumscribed by her little home—with no vision for the world—then I think her domestic scene is probably going to shrivel up on her, and she is going to feel that it is small and constraining. But if she sees it in the wider context of what she is a part of in the missionary enterprise, I think every detail of her life can take on a global significance, indeed, an historical significance.