I grew up in a family of six. My mother gave birth to four children before she turned 30. Growing up in a large family seemed normal until I fathered my two children. I then fully understood the sacrifice it takes to raise children. My mother was a stay-at-home mom until I was in the third grade. She started teaching elementary school to save money for our university education. After teaching all day in an unairconditioned south Texas school, she came home to a house full of children and made dinner. Then, she graded papers and prepared for the next day. It was exhausting work, yet I never heard her complain.
When hearing the phrase Faith and Work, most likely people assume that the word ‘work’ is paid work. However, anyone who stays at home and raises children or cares for adults will quickly inform you that at-home work is just as difficult and important as salaried work. Courtney Reissig wrote Glory in the Ordinary: Why Your Work in the Home Matters to God (Crossway, Wheaton, IL, 2017) and details “the changing nature of at-home work.”(page 15)
“The truth is, moms are tired. I [Courtney Reissig] know. I am one. Moms are weary of the pressure to live up to expectations and ideals that no human being could ever attain. Either we hear that our work at home is the pinnacle of greatness (leaving the mother who works outside of the home feeling inferior) or we hear that we are letting down women everywhere by staying home instead of taking advantage of the strides women have made in the workplace (leaving the mother who stays home feeling inferior).”(page 20-21) There are no simple answers or choices.
Reissig proposes finding “meaning in at-home work … by seeing how it fits in the larger scheme of community, culture, and life. And that can be done only by going to the One who makes effective all that we do.”(page 24) Doing household chores is loving our neighbors who happen to be the adults and children who live in our homes. “Our Christian subculture emphasizes loving our neighbor, which is good, but we often forget that we have neighbors living in close proximity to us.”(page 66) We sometimes take for granted the clean clothes, hot food, and mopped floors – tasks lovingly performed by many mothers and fathers who do at-home work. I confess that I gave it little thought until I started raising children.
At-home workers perform many acts of service in the community. When our neighbors need help, it is the community that responds and many times, it is the at-home workers who respond with meals, rides, babysitting, and listening. “As you understand that your work is ultimately for the benefit of your neighbor, then work becomes something done not in isolation, but within a larger community of people. It’s done for people, and it’s done with people.”(page 83) The Gospels are full of Christ’s teaching about how we are to live in community.
It is always nice to receive a paycheck when we work. But good work is not defined by a paycheck, office, or title. It is taking our community a step closer to the kingdom of God. My mother understood this while raising four needy children as an at-home worker. “A recovery of seeing the home as a place for the family’s productivity, and as part of the common good of society, helps reorient our perspective on the pay for at-home work, along with our purpose in our work.”(page 38)