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THE CAPABLE WIFE AND APPRECIATED MOTHER

My Favourite Scripture Passages

Proverbs 31:10-31
8th May 2005

This week Beverley’s nephew and niece rang us with great excitement. They have been married for about twenty years very happily with one exception. They have no children. In spite of every effort and every medical treatment, pregnancy has escaped them. Like many couples unable to have children they have faced twenty years of frustration and failure. They tried series of IVF treatments without success, and every month they faced failure. They have been on a waiting list for an adoption for eight years without getting to the top of the list. The baby’s cot and room has been painted but unoccupied. Failure and frustration must have been so hard to bear. I have known many couples whose marriages have failed because of the failure to bare children. Every time they read of the levels of abortions and of 100,000 aborted babies, their situation has seemed worse.

This week Kathy and Rob were on the phone. They were laughing and crying all at once, both speaking at the same time. The Anglican adoption agency had rung them and told them that after eight years a baby girl was available. She was theirs, and could they pick her up by Saturday? Could they ever! Yesterday, Kathy and Rob brought home their baby daughter for Mothers’ Day! What a Mothers’ Day! In three of our congregations at the moment, I notice some of our couples are expecting a coming child. The pregnant mothers look radiant! We are blessed indeed to have new babies and growing families in most of our congregations. In spite of the cost, challenges and emotional demands, we are blessed indeed with the coming of a child, God’s most precious gift.

But every Mother’s Day, I am concerned for women who have remained single and childless when they would have made wonderful mothers. I am concerned for married women who with their husbands have been unable to conceive. I am concerned for women without children who have been mothers to other peoples’ children. I am concerned for women whose children have died or who are far from them. I am concerned for people who miss their mothers because they have died or separated from them. I am concerned for women who are mothers, but whose children have been taken from them because they have been unable to cope due to ill health or other reasons. While large numbers of the community, male and female, think only abortion, a smaller group of people think only of conception and pregnancy. Because IVF treatments are so essential, but so expensive, the government has flagged that IVF Treatment may be limited to three treatments a year at a cost of $330,000 as a charge to the taxpayers. This limitation would be a great disappointment to couples unable to conceive. Motherhood today is difficult.

1. YOUNG MOTHERS OFTEN HAVE TO GO TO WORK.

Women holding paid jobs is not a recent phenomenon. But what has changed significantly is that they are working at different stages in their lives. In the last forty years since 1966, the labour force participation rate of married women has increased from 29% to 53%. Rather than the female workforce consisting mainly of women who either have adult children or are childless, recent decades have witnessed a growing proportion of employed women with very young children cared for by family or child-care.

Now 45% of mothers with children under four are employed in the workforce and 59% of two-parent families with dependant children had both parents in the paid labour force. If both parents need to work outside the home, then some aspects of house and garden must be let go. Each member of the family must take additional responsibilities to help out. There is pressure on the wife to try and be “superwoman”, and a perfect mother, to show society that her family life is not suffering because of her other occupation. Unless role sharing is sorted out early, great resentment builds up. There is pressure on both parents to “buy” their children’s affection, to compensate for the lack of time spent together.

But should mothers with young children work outside the home? In the National Social Science Survey of 4511 adults (half being women), seven out of ten Australians preferred that the mother stay home when she had pre-school children. For those who did desire employment, the preference was almost always for part-time rather than full-time work. There is a clear picture that the ideal situation for families with pre-schoolers is the mother staying home, or, at least, not spending most of her day at a job. Half the respondents thought that pre-school children suffered if their mother worked, and half thought that family life suffered when a woman worked full-time. More than 30 per cent agreed that a woman should devote almost all of her time to a family. But what people may want and recognise as beneficial, may be beyond the reach of many people. In most housing estates there are no home-based mothers at all. Child care centres are full with families paying up to $600 a week for two children.

2. WHAT IS THE WORTH OF A HOME-BASED MOTHER?

What is the worth financially of a mother who works in the home? Her work is economically very valuable, and we suggest there are ways of estimating this value. There is the “Market Cost” Value of a mother. Each of a mother’s activities, such as childminder, cook, cleaner, chauffeur, nurse, gardener and administrator, is valued at the number of hours spent on each job, applying the market wage rate for each job, and reaching a total value for her work. This is complicated, especially as a mother of young children is often doing two tasks at once, like child-care and cooking. A expert calculated for me that her work is worth about $73,600 per year.

There is also the “Replacement Cost” value of a mother. Some insurance policies look at the cost of replacing the work of a mother, if she is ill or dies and a housekeeper is hired to do as nearly as possible the tasks she used to do. This cost varies according to the size of the family, their ages, and the family’s lifestyle. But a permanent live-in housekeeper who looks after one adult and two children costs $700 per week plus full board and accommodation, a package of about $55,000 p.a.. The housekeeper would be entitled to two days off per week, four weeks’ annual holiday and worker’s compensation, adding another $35,000 per year for a replacement. The economic value of a mother takes the amount a woman could earn in a paid job and then subtracts the amount she has to spend in order to keep the job such as Child-care costs plus the variables for taxation and Child Benefit. There are today 1,500,00 children in child care. Mothers, by any means of valuation of their work, make an important economic contribution to the family.

The reason I mention this is because there is a myth in our culture that an important job is always highly paid. By this thinking, a low paid job is not important. If people insist on thinking this way, a mother can show the dollar value of her work, calculated in one of the ways I have just outlined. But the most valuable part of a mother’s life is the giving of emotional support, love, understanding, care and kindness to her husband and children. The mother gives character to a child. If the actual time were added up, it would amount to several years over a lifetime of marriage. The value of this aspect of a mother’s work cannot be calculated in dollars. It is wrong that most of the world believes that any work which cannot be calculated in dollars is worth nothing. Young mothers are justified in getting angry when people think that women think nothing, learn nothing and earn nothing while raising children. Unless they have done it, few people would realise the intense effort that goes into rearing children. Without experience, few understand how much energy is consumed being a mother.

3. THE IMPORTANCE OF A MOTHER TO A CHILD.

Ask a significant questions: “How important is mother to her child?” The child psychologists agree that the key to healthy personality development lies in the “child’s close, unbroken attachment in the early months to people who care for him or her. Too much disruption of this stable early home-life imbeds personality traits and can be destructive for a lifetime.” The child’s character is set by its mother. Depression grows out of inadequate affection, poor attachment, and inadequate contact between the child and his mother during those early months of life.

That is the root of the problems some individuals have all their lives and may lead to drug abuse, alcoholism unplanned pregnancy, suicide and a feeling inside that says: “I am worthless, unloved, unwanted. Nothing will ever be good.” Bonding between mothers and fathers, is a basis for healthy personality growth. To give parents more hours with their children, we need to revamp the work week through flexi time, job sharing, longer maternity and paternity leave, and more vacations.

4. THE BIBLICAL ROLE MODEL FOR A MOTHER.

Where does a woman turn to find a sane list of expectations for being a good mother? The only consistently reliable source available is the Bible. Psychology systems come and go. Advice columnists are hit-and-miss. Even friends don’t see the total picture. One general outline for being a capable wife and appreciated mother is found in Proverbs 31. Focus on the overall spiritual principles of the passage and set aside the cultural details of “wool and flax”, “merchants,” “maidens,” spindles,” “vineyards,” “lamps” that speak of the era in which it was written. For the principles of being a good mother and wife have never changed, and we need to be reminded of them today.

The Proverbs 31 Mother and wife is: trustworthy v10: she is reliable, able to be counted on, consistent, secure and realistic; virtuous v11: she is morally excellent, learns from past mistakes, keeps to her principles, understands the difference between good and bad; industrious v13,14,28: she is hard working, diligent, active, busy, persistent, hanging in there when her body and mind are tired; generous v15: she is unselfish, considerate, kind-hearted, willing to give, wise v16,27: she is perceptive, intuitive, thoughtful, shrewd, uses well the knowledge she has, aims for practical, God-honouring goals and uses the highest course available to achieve those goals; strong v17: she is stable, sure of herself, possessing the ability to withstand pressure; compassionate v19: she is tender, sympathetic, responsive and warm, giving constructive help; dignified v28: she stands tall with grace. Poised; spiritual v30: she knows some things are sacred, she loves God, she reverences her relationship with God above everything else.

When my wife Beverley gave birth to our first child, a daughter, Jenny, I gave Beverley a new Bible to mark the occasion, and in the front I wrote from this passage: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” v29 Make a note of these qualities found in the best of mothers. Thank God, Young Mother, for His part in establishing these merits in you. Ask Him for specific help in an area that makes you feel inadequate. We all lack some, so you are not alone. But we want you to be a good mother. That is why “her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all!.” v28–29 We need lots of those capable wives and appreciated mothers if we are going to heal our families and our society. Only when you are right with God can you be right with yourself, and then with your family and friends. Good mothers and fathers start with dedication to God.

REFERENCES

  • Institute of Family Studies 1991.
  • “Occupation: Housewife NSW Women’s Advisory Council
  • “TIME”, May 9, 1994.
  • “How to Be a Good Mum”, Stephen and Janet Bly. Moody Press 1988

Gordon Moyes

 

Wesley Mission, Sydney.