Sunday, December 2, 2012

How to be a Helpmate in Christian Marriage

Welcome to Marriage Monday!

How Marriage Works:
21 Secrets Every Couple Needs to Know

Secret #16: Men are uniquely designed to be providers, and they deeply need their wives' support.

Q. My husband's business is really struggling, and I'm a Mom who works part-time at home. Should I carry on at home, or go out and find a full-time job?

The one thing that constantly challenges our marriage is... the direction we want to go in... and how to focus on it. As a girl I changed when I got married, as a woman I changed when I had children, and now I'm changing again... trying to figure out where I fit in the world, which in turn affects how I react in my marriage. I still fight against the worldview have "have to" to work instead of staying home with my children (which I'm glad I am privileged enough to do so). I am happy and in love but never sure how I can best serve God - how WE can serve God together.—Anne Onymous

A. Great question. Obviously, each marriage is unique. Scripture affirms that
God has variously gifted both men and women.
Both genders are called to share their talents for the benefit of others. But one size does not fit all. It takes lots of time for Christian couples to establish a work life that supports their family and satisfies both of them.
Why Men Need to Work

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. (Gen 2:15 NIV)

Regardless of their vocation, we know that all women find tremendous fulfillment in their relationships. However, God designed men to find the majority of their fulfillment and identity through their jobs.

In fact, when he's successful in providing for his family, a husband's physical and mental health are optimized, thanks to higher levels of testosterone. Levels of this master hormone can drop significantly when a man suffers a business setback or a job loss.

A worker’s appetite works for him, for his hunger urges him on. (Prov 16:26 NASB)

Unfortunately, many well-meaning wives unknowingly sabotage their husbands' efforts by taking over the reins. However, when a wife encourages her husband to “step up to the plate,” deferring to him as the family's primary bread-winner, everyone wins. In fact, the happiest marriages are those in which the husband earns at least 68% of the family's income.

Learn to Ask “What Can I Do to Help?” 

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Gen 2:18 NIV)

God intended for wives play a key role as their husband's “cheerleader,” especially when a man is struggling to pay the bills. Fortunately, it doesn't take years of theological study or days of prayer and fasting to figure out what to do. A Christian wife can simply practice asking her husband, What can I do to help?” and consistently follow-up on his suggestions. Ultimately her patience, and her supportive attitude will pay big dividends for both of them.

Homemaker or Working Mom

The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. (Prov 14:1 NIV)

This issue of working Moms versus stay-at-home Moms is hotly debated in our culture. Before the economic downturn in 2008, most educated men were earning a livable income. Thus, educated Christian wives had the freedom to choose a career path they deemed most appropriate.

For instance, a significant number of Christian mothers felt called to important positions beyond their own four walls. With two incomes, these families enjoyed a higher standard of living, but it came with a price—including higher stress levels.

On the other hand, many Christian mothers opted to stay home, expressing their gifts to benefit their families and community. The price they paid was the challenge of living on one income in a two-income society. Thanks to technology, entrepreneurial Moms figured out how to bring in extra money working from home.

Godly Helpmates in the New Economy

               She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
               (Prov 31:16 NIV)
Unfortunately today, for many would-be SAHMs the current economy has severely restricted their freedom to choose full-time homemaking as their primary vocation. In many cases, working wives out-earn their husbands, whose jobs have been cut, replaced by technology, or moved overseas. Educated married women are entering the workforce in record numbers simply to make ends meet.

Career women know that working full-time outside the home is a massive juggling act—without a doubt. Some mothers take on the challenge and perform with aplomb. However, Gallup reports that 51% of working mothers say they would prefer to work part-time or not at all.  Perhaps the best course of action for the latter group, is to find full-time work they can do from home.

Bottom line, a wise Christian wife finds creative ways to support her husband in his quest to provide or their family—especially when he's struggling. Asking for his input and consistent follow-through will help him advance in his chosen career. Once he's on his way to success, then she can make some real choices about how to optimize her own talents at home and in the workplace.


This post is linked at Time Warp Wife's Titus2Tuesdays

Photos: LeoReynolds, rpsd, RichardMasoner (Flickr)

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Beth said...

I've had the privilege of not being the main breadwinner in our home. I wanted to stay home with the boys when they were younger and I got to do just that. When they entered their teens I got back into the workforce part-time but worked out of the office in our home. It's been a win-win for me. But many mom's don't have so many choices. So it's been good to have us think outside the box regarding the work issue.

And I'm so glad you focused on "helping" our husbands, e-Mom, because it has helped me to take the time to ask my hubby what I can do to help him. Since I've been married as long as I have, I find myself taking certain things for granted. This was a good exercise in many ways. Thanks so much for hosting and posing great discussions!

Gindi said...

I work full time and couldn't manage any other way. I love that our marriage tries to focus on supporting the unit, we're a team that loves each other and our kids and are committed to making sure God is reflected through our family.

Shelley said...

I have always worked during our 18 yrs of marriage. We do not have children so I have never had to struggle with the 'should I or shouldn't I work outside the home'.

On the other hand I am a pastor's wife and I have had 'some' people look at me funny when I tell them I work full time. As though I should be available for every day-time function. And where necessary I have taken days off to attend certain things.

There have been seasons where I was the bread winner of the family but honestly I have never thought about that until just reading those words today. We are a team a complete unit - everything is shared but Shane is very much the leader who draws me in as his help-meet.

A part of me also feels that working outside the home is a ministry too. I get to make friendships with women I would never meet in the church.

My working outside the house relieves my man from alot of financial pressure too and I feel that this is a gift I can offer also.

Just my 2 cents - thanks for letting me say so :) xxx

Faith said...

I have been blessed to have done every single option during our 22 years of marriage. I worked full time as a Master Teacher our first 3 yrs, then had a baby and stayed home full time for a year. Once my sabbatical was up I went back as a full time teacher with a toddler in daycare right on the same campus where i taught special ed prek!!! THAT was a God thing. BUT...after that school year, I sadly quit my teaching job so I could be at home full time. I say sadly because I LOVED MY CAREER BUT...I wanted my baby out of daycare center and couldn't find a GOOD Christian mom to watch her. SO...I stayed home for 5 full years and loved it. Then baby girl 2 came along and I did part time (2 days a week, 4 hrs a day) ministry work as a crisis counselor/parenting instructor. LOVED it but burned out after 5 yrs. then God called us to a new church and I stayed home another year to be "room parent' for my youngest daughter's 2nd grade class. the next year I took a teaching assistant job part time every day. And for the rest, you will have to read my post :)
Great post Emom. We are blessed.

nice A said...

While it's true that men get some kind of satisfaction in performing their role as the major breadwinner for the family, there are a lot of marriages with reversed roles but are doing well. I know many women who earn more than their husband but they don't have any issue over it. It all depends on how husbands and wives deal with it.

Thanks, e-Mom for another challenging and interesting topic.

Shelley said...

nice A .... I agree it makes me shudder when I hear women mention they are the bread winner ... God allows us to provide for ourselves and we are blessed whichever way He chooses for the income to come. I have seen the look on a mans face when his wife made a big deal of this. Our men are hunters and need to feel as though they have brought home the prize!! There are a number of ways we can make our men feel like/and know they are the BEST hunters x

e-Mom said...

Beth, Gindi, Shelley, Faith and NiceA: I appreciate how openly you've shared your thoughts on this potentially divisive topic. I think each one of us would agree that our marriages are a work in progress--and what's right for one season, may not be right for the next.

For example, I stayed home when our children were small, and focussed exclusively on them. I earned some part-time income running my own pre-school, and later I taught Art classes in our basement studio. During that period, we also played host to several (paid) foreign students.

Eventually, I began working for e-Dad in our small business, which continues to this day. I'm happy to commute to my computer in my bathrobe many mornings! I have really loved the flexibility of working from home.

Fresh winds are blowing now that our children are grown. In the next couple of years, I'm planning to seek a new part-time career outside our home. I look forward to that chapter with great anticipation--which may be my last before retirement! I'm still trying to decide the best direction for my skill set.

Regardless of which direction I go, I absolutely intend to keep my primary role as encourager and helpmate to my husband uppermost in my mind. ღ

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