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The traditional role of a wife was to be at home bringing up children, managing the home, and supporting her husband in his tasks. The Bible also indicates this, not as a command but as an instruction (Tit.2:3-5). Within the home a wife could exercise her abilities and skills to help her husband and her children as we see in the classical description of an 'excellent wife' in the Bible (Pr.31:10-31). The husband was the one who worked to provide for the family, protect them and lead them. We can say that this is the ideal pattern even now. We see that physically as well as psychologically men and women are made for different roles. This does not assume that the role of a wife is inferior or that she herself is inferior in any way. The husband and wife are both equally valuable in the sight of God, but He has assigned two different sets of tasks to them both.
However it is true that since man was physically stronger and held the power of wealth with him, for thousands of years many wives have been treated like slaves or like cheap, disposable commodities by their husbands. Reacting against this maltreatment of women the 'women's liberation movement' of the twentieth century advocated equality of rights and claimed that what men could do, women also could. Of course this movement went into many extremes, but looking back we can see that it has also succeeded to a large extent in highlighting the rights of women in the home and society. Many women have left their traditional roles and gone for higher education and taking on jobs that were once the monopoly of men. But this has taken place not without extracting a price from the women themselves as well as from family life and society as a whole.
There are, even now, many women who understand their unique responsibility as wives and mothers and make great social sacrifices to give full attention to fulfilling those roles. Families and society in turn are blessed to have these women. But let us be practical and not forget that the larger percentage of women these days are, out of economic reasons or from peer pressure, taking on dual roles of working just like men to earn an income and trying at the same time to be responsible wives and mothers. While I would not like to promote working wives, once they have chosen that role I would like to help them to be able to cope with life better.
Dear ones, what you have taken on is a very difficult task in many ways. Even to be just a good wife and mother is by itself a very great responsibility which is highly demanding on your resources. You have in addition taken on the task of working on a regular job to earn an income. I would like to give you some tips on things you should watch out for and where you need to pay some extra attention to in order to become better equipped to handle the pressure.
Don't forget the priorities
Remember what you are designed for. As a woman, God has designed you physically, mentally and spiritually to play the roles of a wife and a mother. When God has planned for husbands and wives to 'become one', it is much more than a physical union. You and your husband can become closer to each other than with anyone else. You can both make each other 'complete' through this oneness. Don't forget this priority which is even greater than that towards your children (who will one day leave you to form their own families).
When it comes to bringing up children, you have certain abilities that a man does not have. To mention a few, did you know that the slight tilt you have at your elbow, and the hourglass figure at your waist are designed to help you carry babies? Did you know that your brain has abilities to handle several tasks at the same time, helping you to manage your home and your children better? Your husband can't make out why the baby is crying, but you can, can't you? You have a special knack of showing love and care for your children which helps them to confide more in you than in your husband.
When you start working outside your home, do remember that your priorities should still be with your husband and children, and that nothing else you take up should be at their expense.
Don't bite off more than you can chew
When managing your household and bringing up your children can be by themselves very taxing on you, be very careful about how much more you can take up on yourselves. Many other activities may look tempting, in terms of money, independence, a feeling of importance and self-satisfaction, etc. But there is only 'so much' any one can handle, and if you try to take on more activities, something is likely to suffer, most propbably your relationship with your husband and children. Don't think that they ought to have greater understanding and provide you better support in what you would like to do. They have their own needs, and if they give you support you should count yourself lucky. But demanding support while you go around enjoying yourself is a killer of relationships.
Recognise there are going to be conflicts
When you take on responsibilities outside your home, you are setting yourself up for higher tension, because you are stretching yourself beyond normal. This will affect your performance both at home and at work. You will have less time for your husband and children, and conflicts are naturally going to develop, many times at unexpected moments. Your general level of tiredness is going to become high, and this is likely to make you more impatient and irritable. Once you have decided to go for work you should recognise this as inevitable and take steps to minimise the possibility and the damage. Teach yourself to become sensitive your husband's and children's needs and to make efforts to provide for them. Remember that they have their own expectations from you, and if you are too busy to provide the support that they need from you, they might be tempted to look for it elsewhere. Conflicts will come up, but when they do, don't think that it is the end of the world. Take time to sort them out.
Keep communication channels open Many times we imagine that if we ignore conflicts they would go away! But unresolved conflicts keep accumulating tension, and finally some small provocation can make the relationship explode. Conflicts would need to be looked at on their face, and many times we would need to discuss them with the people we have conflicts with or with others who can guide and help us to resolve them. Communication is therefore a key requirement in marriage. A matter-of-fact type of communication for passing on information is not enough to nurture relationships. Communication of appreciation of each other, sincere enquiry about the other people's welfare as well as informing others about our hurts and frustrations are all necessary to nurture a good relationship with one another.
Dealing with stress
Did you know that a common method women use for de-stressing is conversation? In the earlier societies where several generations of women used to be at home with the children while the men went out for work, there was ample opportunity to talk things over with some one else whenever things used to bother them. But now when women go out for work and get occupied with work for typically eight hours per day, there is hardly opportunity for this type of conversation. Working wives carry their marriage tensions to work, and then the work tensions get added on. Women then wait to come home and share their problems with their husbands, not realising that the husbands are hoping to come home and relax after their hard work! But this stress has to be dealt with.
For one thing, isn't it better to give your husband some time to relax after coming home before you open up your conversation about the problems you have been facing? It will be helpful if both of you come to a mutual understanding about the 'after work procedure' that would be beneficial for both of you. Both of you need to find ways of addressing your conflicts and relieving yourselves of your tension.
If your husband is cooperative in this, it is good. But even then don't depend entirely on him to meet all your needs. Learn to talk things over with God. There is no one who understands like Him. Take comfort and counsel from His word. It is also good to find some ways of getting over your stress such as putting on some music, singing as you do your work at home, going for walks if time permits (especially with your husband), doing some exercices, etc. And if your husband is not cooperative, there is all the more necessity to find solace with God and other Christian lady friends. (No boy friends, please.)
Don't forget to work with your husband as a team
When you start earning for yourself you will be tempted to become independent of your husband. You may start thinking of 'my money' and 'your money'. If you wanted to have your own life, you shouldn't have got married! By getting married you have made a commitment to live together with your husband as 'one'. Independence is not worth it, really. Interdependence is what satisfies the best.
Seek for more support from your husband and children If they get benefit from your work, in terms of money, surely they ought to help you too. Your husband could do things that are not conventionally considered to be a man's job, such as washing the dishes, changing the babies' nappies, getting the groceries, etc. However, you won't get him to do these things if you 'demand' that it is his duty to help you. But if you plead for help, he may be chivalrous enough to help.
As your children grow up, they could also take up little jobs to help you. This will also give them good training in life.
Keep your ears open to God, as He tries to tell you little tips now and then. There is no Counsellor like Him.