Yesterday in church, our pastor read this to us:
The text reads:
- Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they get home and the prospect of a good meal is part of the warm welcome needed.
- Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.
- Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it.
- Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives. Run a dust cloth over the tables.
- During the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering to his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.
- Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer or vacuum. Encourage the children to be quiet.
- Be happy to see him.
- Greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him.
- Listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first – remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.
- Don’t greet him with complaints and problems.
- Don’t complain if he’s late for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through at work.
- Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.
- Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.
- Don’t ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.
- A good wife always knows her place.
I get it. I get the point that this is supposed to be humor, and that we’re supposed to realize how far we’ve come in the nearly 60 years since this “article” was published. Leaving aside the fact that this is probably a hoax, the problem I have is that for a lot of Christians, this is how they see men and women. Oh, I don’t mean that anyone really thinks that a woman should follow these steps to the letter. I mean that we have roughly the same expectations, just dressed up a little differently.
When women are challenged to be “godly, Biblical wives,” there is a certain reading of the text that leads some people to conclude that a good wife’s duty is to “manage the home.” To be honest, I’m not even sure that anyone knows what that means. I’ve heard it all—everything from being a stay-at-home mom to keeping things neat and clean to making sure that everyone’s relational needs are met. Time and again, we’re told that these are the things women are good at, because we are “different” from men. Being in possession of a vagina somehow magically makes us better at cooking, cleaning, and applying band-aids to scraped knees.
And never mind working wives and mothers. Work isn’t seen as something women should want to do. We’re not supposed to be powerful or have careers and try to advance them or feel passionate about our jobs. Working is just something some women do because they’re single parents or their families are financially insecure or they need something to pass the time while the kids are at school.
On top of that, we are supposed to be superwomen. We get compared to the Proverbs 31 wife all the time. She’s held up as some kind of ideal, the woman we’re supposed to admire and emulate. She feeds everyone, even the servants! She works! Her kids think she’s awesome! She does it all with a smile, in her pearls and high heels! (Okay, I made that last one up.) Even if we have jobs, even if we do volunteer work in the community (and maybe especially then, since it isn’t “real” work), we’re still supposed to make sure that the house runs smoothly, the kids get to bed on time, and everyone is taken care of. Sure, men can be asked to do some basic chores, or maybe make sure the lawn is mown and the trash is taken out to the curb. But it’s wifey’s job to make sure she stays on top of what needs to be done. After all, we can’t expect her powerful, manly husband to come home from his powerful, manly job and do it. If a woman works, it had better never interfere with her ability to care for her family.
What a lot of people don’t understand is that this isn’t just a problem for women. This hurts men, too. What if a woman is a corporate CEO, and her husband is a stay-at-home dad? What if both parents work, and both enjoy their jobs? What if a man is the one who is better at taking care of little one’s boo-boos and sniffles? What if mom is a slob and dad is a neat freak, so he takes care of the tidying and cleaning? What if the wife is good with power tools and the husband is a master chef? And what if it’s because she’s a mechanic and he’s a cook in a restaurant? Are they supposed to suddenly reverse roles in the home? And do any of those things make him less of a man?
I know that some people will say, “Well, of course there are exceptions. These are general principles.” But when the message we hear, week after week, is that a woman is good at _____ and a man is good at _____, it’s hard not to believe something may be wrong with you if it isn’t true. It’s especially upsetting when it’s treated as though these are things we can find in the Bible regarding proper male/female roles. When we don’t fit those roles, we wonder if it’s some kind of sin in our lives that we need to address.
My husband and I chose to have me stay home with our kids. But the reason we did it this way is that his salary was higher. We believed that one of us should stay home, at least while the kids were little. It could just as easily have been my husband taking care of the kids while I worked. Because I’m home, I tend to do more of the chores, although I certainly don’t do everything. My husband is usually the one to help with homework, partly because he’s a teacher and partly because the help required is usually with math (which I can do just fine, but I struggle to teach it). And he’s certainly the more sympathetic and nurturing parent. (Example: One of our kids falls down. Me: “Are you bleeding? No? Good. Go play.” My husband: “Oh no! Are you okay? Do you need a hug?”) So are we “traditional” or not?
The whole thing stems from the basic idea that our differing biology somehow makes us unequal to each other. Over and over and over we’re taught that we have societal roles to fill and that we should not deviate, because it’s not how we were made. We’re told that the Bible “clearly” says this. In fact, the Bible has far more to say about hospitality, social justice, mercy, brotherly love, forgiveness, kindness, and caring for one another than it does about male and female roles within society or the church. Yet we dwell on the latter rather than the former.
Church, is it any wonder that young people are leaving in droves?