Friday, May 10, 2013

The Value Of Staying Home

During the last discussion on my blog I got the following comment:

Even for the housewife, there will be times when she is spread quite thinly (babies, moves, illness, etc.), but when she is at home all day, even with many distractions, it really shows. (emphasis mine)
The lady who wrote it expressed a profound truth in one short sentence: the woman's presence in the house is important, even if she can't do much on a particular day (e.g. due to sickness).

There have been so many discussions lately on housewives vs. working women and it nearly always comes down to money, while the other aspect is totally overlooked. The biblical command for women to be keepers at home didn't mean that they never can try and generate some additional income, but it did quite literally mean that home is the place where the married woman is supposed to spend the chief part of her life.

Take, for instance John Calvin's commentary on the meaning of Titus 2: "...That they should also be tarriers at home, that they should be gentle and subject to their husbands. Whereas he saith that they should be tarriers at home: it appeareth to be a virtue that women ought to like well enough of, without any exhorting of them thereunto. For nature showeth it: and even the heathen men could well tell the same, insomuch that they made a great lesson of it in painting, (as a man would do of the shepherds Calendar,) likening a wife to a Tortoise or Snail, which carrieth his shell always with him on his back: even so, wives, ought not to desire to be gadding abroad. For why? If they be disposed to occupy themselves as God commandeth them: surely they shall always find enough to keep them occupied. For though they have never so small a house to look unto: yet shall they find business enough, so they be not willing to be idle. If they have a great household, then must they take the greater pains, if they mind to do their duty as they should do."

(Read the rest of the sermon over here ) It was by no means only his own point of view, but rather the general understanding of the meaning of the verse. Compare it with Matthew Henry:

Chaste, and keepers at home, are well joined too. Dinah, when she went to see the daughters of the land, lost her chastity. Those whose home is their prison, it is to be feared, feel that their chastity is their fetters. Not but there are occasions, and will be, of going abroad; but a gadding temper for merriment and company sake, to the neglect of domestic affairs, or from uneasiness at being in her place, is the opposite evil intended, which is commonly accompanied with, or draws after it, other evils. 1 Tim. v. 13, 14, They learn to be idle, wandering from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not. Their business is to guide the house, and they should give no occasion to the enemy to speak reproachfully. (Read the rest here)

John Gill was a famous Bible scholar from the 18th century who also consulted Jewish sources in order to understand the Scriptures better. Here is what he writes on the issue:

Keepers at home: minding their own family affairs, not gadding abroad; and inspecting into, and busying themselves about other people's matters. This is said in opposition to what women are prone unto. It is reckoned among the properties of women, by the Jews, that they are twynauwy, "gadders abroad" {x}: they have some rules about women's keeping at home; they say {y}, "a woman may go to her father's house to visit him, and to the house of mourning, and to the house of feasting, to return a kindness to her friends, or to her near relations—but it is a reproach to a woman to go out daily; now she is without, now she is in the streets; and a husband ought to restrain his wife from it, and not suffer her to go abroad but about once a month, or twice a month, upon necessity; for there is nothing more beautiful for a woman, than to abide in the corner of her house; for so it is written, Psalm 45:13 "the king's daughter is all glorious within.""

And this they say {z} is what is meant by the woman's being an helpmeet for man, that while he is abroad about his business, she is tybb tbvwy, "sitting at home," and keeping his house; and this they observe is the glory and honour of the woman. The passage in
Isaiah 44:13 concerning an image being made "after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man, that it may remain in the house" is by the Targum thus paraphrased: "according to the likeness of a man, according to the praise of a woman, to abide in the house."

Upon which Kimchi, has this note: "it is the glory of a woman to continue at home, and not go abroad." The tortoise, which carries its house upon its back, and very rarely shows its head, or looks out of it, was, with the ancients, an emblem of a good housewife.

(Read the entire chapter over here)

Somewhere I read a Catholic sermon on keepers at home which basically stated the same thing, but I lack time to search for it now.

While cleaning the house, shopping, meal preparation and other housekeeping tasks are certainly very important, the mere presence of the wife and mother at home greatly attributes to her family comfort. People who disagree with the traditional roles for women, often use the argument that with modern equipment housework can be done quickly and that's why when children reach school age mothers should go back to work (for women with grown children and childless homemakers there are apparently no excuses to stay home at all).

Those who say it don't understand that homemaking is more than just doing the laundry, which can be done by anyone, even by a hired help. Cheryl Mendelson explains it best in her Home Comforts, the modern housekeeping Bible:

"...what a traditional woman did that made her home warm and alive was not dusting and laundry. Someone can be hired to do those things...Her real secret was that she identified herself with her home...her affection was in the soft sofa cushions, clean linens and good meals; her memory in well stocked storeroom cabinets and the pantry; her intelligence in the order and healthfulness of her home, her good humor in its light and air. She lived her life not only through her own body but through the house as an extension of her body; part of her relation to those she loved was embodied in the physical medium of the home she made." (p.9-10, Scribner 2005).

Homemaking is not just an an occupation, it's a lifestyle. You can't identify yourself with your home when you spend the larger part of the day out of it. Have you never noticed how strange it feels when you return to an empty house after the day off with your family? There was nobody to keep the fire burning because everybody went away and you notice it when you come back. That's the traditional woman's role, to keep the home fires burning. That's why there is value in staying home in whatever situation, even if you have the live-in butler and maid, because homemaking is not only about scrubbing and cleaning. And if your children live on their own, or you have none, you still have your husband to create home for.

Be it ever so humble, there is no place like home, and it's up to the wife to create it.


  1. A hearty AMEN to everything you said!

    As a childless homemaker, I am so thankful that my husband sees the value in what I do even if others don't....

    1. Well, according to Calvin there was time when even heathen men understood the value of a homemaker. It's rather unfortunate that nowadays many who profess the name of Christ do not, isn't it? People are terribly materialistic, even those who call themselves Christians so for them it's always about money and stuff.

  2. Amen, indeed! And thank you for linking to my blog! :)

  3. You are welcome! And thanks for linking to mine:)