All jobs, professions and callings are noble and vital if it is God who is behind it. If the Lord calls you to be a Prime Minister or a street sweeper, both careers are of great value if you do it faithfully as unto the Lord. In all we do, we should seek to glorify God. But I nonetheless want to single out one profession. And I begin with a quick story.
In my morning prayer walk with my dog I prayed, as usual, for the neighbours. It is hoped some will come to know the Lord over time. Some of them I have gotten to know a bit and have had chats with. But so many I still do not yet know, or know much about. But my wife would have known most of their names and known so much more about them.
Of course when the children were younger she was a full-time homemaker, while I dutifully commuted off to work each day. But reflecting on that this morning, I had this thought: although what I was doing was part of what God had called me to do, and was therefore important work, in so many ways it did not compare with what she had done for so long.
In most families throughout so much of history, it was this way: the husband/father would head off to his job, while the wife/mother would stay home and do a million tasks, most important of which was raising the children. So while I did my daily work away from home, she would be there basically 24/7, doing countless tasks – many of them unbeknown to me – as well as capably raising three boys.
It is really only now that she is gone that I see how VERY much she had done, not just as a mother but as a homemaker. As I just told a friend yesterday over a cuppa, we must never take our spouse for granted. The fact that various neighbours showed up to her funeral demonstrates what an impact she had, not just in the home, but in the surrounding community.
So if I had to choose, I would without a moment’s hesitation say that what she had done as a mother and homemaker far outweighed what I had done as a worker – even though my work was involved in key things like pro-family, pro-faith and pro-life activism. The impact of her job as a loving mother will last for all eternity.
I sometimes wonder how much of an impact my work will have. And the longer she is gone, the more I miss her, and the more I see what an amazing woman, wife and mother she was. And I see that she had done so much more than I ever did. Indeed, I do not think I could have done the half of it.
Sure, to her – and most other mothers – it may have seemed like mundane, monotonous, and humdrum daily work. Mothers in the midst of another mountain of dirty diapers to wash and the like will likely not have a very lofty or very glamorous view of the work they are doing.
But it is all part of this wonderful profession and holy calling that we know as motherhood. I would not trade places with my wife for all the money (or books) in the world. What she did was just unbeatable, and I would not have gone the distance had I tried to do what she did.
With this in mind, let me run with an old story. I recently reviewed a terrific volume edited by William Bennett called The Book of Virtues. It contains hundreds of stories, poems and essays celebrating the moral virtues. See my review here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2024/01/07/shaping-morality-through-story-telling/
And see my review of his follow-up volume, The Moral Compass, which offers more of the same: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2024/01/18/moral-education-and-story-telling/
In the “Work” section of the first book, Bennett says this about one story: “This old Scandinavian tale teaches us to respect others’ hard work.” It is called, “The Husband Who Was to Mind the House”. It goes like this:
Once upon a time there was a man so surly and cross, he never thought his wife did anything right around the house. One evening, during hay-making time, he came home complaining that dinner wasn’t on the table, the baby was crying, and the cow had not been put in the barn.
“I work and I work all day,” he growled, “and you get to stay home and mind the house. I wish I had it so easy. I could get dinner ready on time, I’ll tell you that.
“Dear love, don’t be so angry,” said his wife. “Tomorrow let’s change our work. I’ll go out with the mowers and cut the hay, and you stay home and mind the house.”
The husband thought that would do very well. “I could use a day off,” he said. “I’ll do all your chores in an hour or two, and sleep the afternoon away.”
So early next morning the wife put a scythe over her shoulder and trudged out to the hayfield with the mowers. The husband stayed behind to do all the work at home.
First of all, he washed some clothes, and then he began to churn the butter. But after he had churned a while, he remembered he needed to hang the clothes up to dry. He went out to the yard, and had just finished hanging his shirts on the line when he saw the pig run into the kitchen.
So off he dashed to the kitchen to look after the pig, lest it should upset the churn. But as soon as he got through the door, he saw the pig had already knocked the churn over. There it was, grunting and rooting in the cream, which was running all over the floor. The man became so wild with rage, he quite forgot about his shirts on the line, and ran at the pig as hard as he could.
He caught it, too, but it was so slippery from all the butter, it shot out of his arms and right through the door. The man raced into the yard, bound to catch that pig no matter what, but he stopped dead in his tracks when he saw his goat. It was standing right beneath the clothesline, chewing and chomping at every last shirt. So the man ran off the goat, and locked up the pig, and took what was left of his shirts off the line.
Then he went into the dairy and found enough cream to fill the churn again, and so he began to churn, for butter they must have at dinner. When he had churned a bit, he remembered that their cow was still shut up in the barn, and had not had a mouthful to eat or a drop to drink all morning, though the sun was high.
He thought it was too far to take her down to the meadow, so he decided to put her on top of the house, for the roof, you must know, was thatched with grass. The house lay next to a steep hill, and he thought if he lay a wide plank from the side of the hill to the roof, he’d easily get the cow up.
But still he couldn’t leave the churn, for here was the little baby crawling about on the floor. “If I leave it,” he thought, “the child is sure to upset it.”
So he put the churn on his back and went out with it. Then he thought he’d better water the cow before he put her on the roof, and he got a bucket to draw water out of the well. But as he stooped down at the brink of the well, the cream ran out of the churn, over his shoulders, down his back, and into the well!
Now it was near dinnertime, and he didn’t even have any butter yet. So as soon as he put the cow on the roof, he thought he’d best boil the porridge. He filled the pot with water, and hung it over the fire.
When he had done that, he thought the cow might fall off the roof and break her neck. So he climbed onto the house to tie her up. He tied one end of the rope around the cow’s neck, and the other he slipped down the chimney. Then he went back inside and tied it around his own waist. He had to make haste, for the water now began to boil in the pot, and he still had to grind the oatmeal.
So he began to grind away. But while he was hard at it, down fell the cow off the housetop after all, and as she fell she dragged the poor man up the chimney by the rope! There he stuck fast. And as for the cow, she hung halfway down the wall, swinging between heaven and earth, for she could neither get down nor up.
Meanwhile the wife, who was out in the field, waited and waited for her husband to call her home to dinner. At last she thought she’d waited enough and went home.
When she got there and saw the cow hanging in such an ugly place, she ran up and cut the rope with her scythe. But as soon as she did, down came her husband out of the chimney! So when she went inside the kitchen, she found him standing on his head in the porridge pot
“Welcome back,” he said, after she had fished him out. “I have something to say to you.”
So he said he was sorry, and gave her a kiss, and never complained again.
Never underestimate your wife or take her for granted! Mothers and homemakers do far more than we will ever imagine. God bless them richly!
Bill Muehlenberg, an American-born and Australian-based commentator, is the author of a number of books and thousands of articles. You can follow him on his website CultureWatch, on YouTube and on Twitter.