Imagine preparing your whole life for a career in medicine. In high school you volunteer at the local hospital and spend your evenings reading medical journals. You make the honor roll and head off to a prestigious medical school. After eight years of only study and no social life, you finally graduate. Then you spend two, maybe three years in your chosen field—not even enough time to pay off the school loans.
But the more you practice medicine, the less you enjoy it. Suddenly you realize the truth. Your real calling is to be a teacher. You want to work with kids, small ones. So now with a mostly useless set of skills (at least you would know how to do the Heimlich maneuver if a kid choked on his hot dog in the school cafeteria), you want to enroll again at the university and study to be a teacher. But you can't. Your time and money have run out.
You can't afford to give six more years of your life to study, and you certainly can't afford the extra school debt. The years and the funds allotted for career preparation have already been spent on another profession. You have to accept the reality that you didn't graduate with the right degree to teach.
All too often we stumble onto homemaking the way this student stumbled onto teaching. We devote ourselves to studying for a particular career, but suddenly discover we want to enter an entirely different field for which we never prepared. Surprise! We find ourselves engaged to be married but without a degree in homemaking.
But unlike all other professions, we aren't forbidden from marrying simply because we aren't prepared. While teachers are not allowed to enter a classroom unless they have a diploma, every day women become wives, mothers, and homemakers with little or no preparation.
Girls often spend years of intensive study for other professions and yet are completely unprepared to assume the career of homemaking. As I wrote in my book Feminine Appeal, "Isn't it telling that our culture requires training and certification for so many vocations of lesser importance, but hands us marriage and motherhood without instruction?"2 One author lamented,
The fact is, our girls have no home education. When quite young they are sent to school where no feminine employment, no domestic habits, can be learned. . . . After this, few find any time to arrange, and make use of, the mass of elementary knowledge they have acquired; and fewer still have either leisure or taste for the inelegant, everyday duties of life. Thus prepared, they enter upon matrimony. Those early habits, which would have made domestic care a light and easy task, have never been taught, for fear it would interrupt their happiness; and the result is, that when cares come, as come they must, they find them misery. I am convinced that indifference and dislike between husband and wife are more frequently occasioned by this great error in education, than by any other cause.3
Although this author has accurately described the dismal state of education for the home today, she was actually writing in 1828. Only imagine what she would say were she alive to observe the situation now! If it's possible, girls are even less prepared now than they were two hundred years ago. Young women tend to assume that homemaking doesn't require any advanced skills or preparation. It's similar to what a sixth grader might think about a test covering first-grade material: What's there to study?
But the truth is that homemaking involves so much more than just cleaning a house. The commands in Scripture to love, follow, and help a husband; to raise children for the glory of God; and to manage a home encompass a vast responsibility. Homemaking requires an extremely diverse array of skills—everything from management abilities, to knowledge of health and nutrition, to interior decorating capabilities, to childhood development expertise. If you are to become an effective homemaker, then you must study these subjects and many more.
And consider the potential number of years you may function as a wife, mother, and full-time homemaker. Obviously, this will differ for every woman, given the age we get married, bear children, and then the age we die. However, many of us will spend a considerable portion of our lives in the homemaking profession—from twenty or thirty to upwards of fifty years or more. That's no small amount of time in one career.
Most importantly, our homemaking mission is from God. For the majority of you who may be married someday, you will be called to support a husband and together to lead and train your children in godliness. And your home is to be a place from which the gospel goes forth.
So homemaking is a career that demands considerable expertise, may encompass decades of our lives, and has the potential to spread the gospel to our families, churches, communities, and future generations. Now that's a career worth preparing for, wouldn't you say?
Of course, it is not wrong to study for another career in addition to preparing for homemaking. However, the point is that we must not pursue any career to the neglect of training to be a homemaker. God has called us to be the keepers of the home; thus I want to urge you to give careful attention to your education for this profession.
You need not wait for home economics classes to once again appear in high school and college syllabi. God did not assign this vital training to educational institutions. Instead, Scripture says that the older women should teach the young women to be effective home managers and to love their husbands and children (Titus 2:3-5). As with all other aspects of biblical womanhood, it is the mother's job to teach and the daughter's job to learn.
Mom, this is where you come in. I want to take a short intermission from our conversation with your daughter and speak with you for a moment. For the job of preparing our daughters to be homemakers—as we see from Titus 2:3-5—has been assigned to us as moms. And what an exciting task this is! We have the privilege of training our daughters to do what we love to do best—to be homemakers and world-changers for the gospel.
Mothers, we must begin by recognizing the full-time nature of our training. Remember Deut 6:7: "[You] shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise." We must incorporate domestic training into the fabric of our daily lives. We must seize every opportunity to prepare our daughters for their mission.
We should speak often to them about the joys of being a wife, mother, and homemaker. Because when you hang around someone who is enthusiastic about her career, it rubs off on you. So let's spread some homemaking enthusiasm to our daughters. But we must also advise them regarding the realities of homemaking. Many girls enter marriage and motherhood without a clue as to what's required, and they quickly fall into despair. We must tell our daughters of the sacrifices that homemaking demands—but also of the unsurpassed rewards it offers.
Besides the ongoing and impromptu teaching opportunities, we must set up a structure for training. A good domestic training plan must begin with the heart. As mothers, we must shape our daughters' convictions to reflect the biblical priority of the home. A steady diet of God's Word and other biblically informed materials are indispensable.4
We must also continually orient our daughters' hearts to home life. This means—and I know this might be a radical concept—that our daughters need to be at home sometimes. I am aware from experience that this is not always easy during the teenage years, which are brimming over with options and activities. However, C. J. and I sought to preserve for our girls the priority of family and home. So family dinner each evening, weekly "Family Night," and other family-together events were nonnegotiable.
Finally, moms, an effective training program equips our daughters to manage all practical aspects of caring for a home and family. It is impossible to list here the numerous skills your daughter must possess. But if you simply reflect on your various daily responsibilities, it will provide a template from which you can develop a specific plan.
Think of your daughter as your homemaking intern. She needs both practical training and instruction. You can provide hands-on training by delegating portions of the household responsibilities to her for short periods of time. For example, you may assign your daughter to buy all the groceries and plan and cook all the meals for a week, or you may have her prepare dinner once a week on a consistent basis. Actually you could rotate through each section of your daily tasks in order to furnish your daughter with a well-rounded experience of the homemaker's world.
To provide your daughter with instruction in homemaking skills, you can get books from a library or bookstore on cleaning, organization, cooking, decorating, or childcare. You can also enroll together in one of the classes in the domestic arts offered by many county organizations or retail stores. My daughters and I have many fun memories from the courses we took on Chinese cooking, gift-wrapping, cake decorating, and more. If there is a homemaking skill in which you feel unequipped to instruct your daughter, contemplate asking a talented friend to teach her instead.
Practical training in homemaking skills should also be a factor in how you help your daughter approach her education. Author Tim Bayly has observed,
Women make academic decisions about course work and majors with little thought of the value of specific areas of knowledge for running a home, raising a family, or educating children. . . . Most . . . women, though, will be blessed by God with marriage and children and are therefore to raise up [their children] for the Lord. To fail to acknowledge this and make decisions accordingly in the critical years of life is so sad, really. Why should Christians join the world in despising housewifery and motherhood?5
Let's not despise homemaking and motherhood but rather honor it. Whether our daughters pursue a formal education or take a more unconventional learning track, let's make sure their season of learning includes preparation for their possible futures.
I encouraged my daughters to acquire skills that would not only benefit them in the workplace but would have lifelong returns as well. Nicole pursued writing opportunities; Kristin took college courses in accounting; and Janelle studied photography. They are all married today, and their respective abilities have enabled them to supplement their family incomes and serve others.
Finally, back to you, daughters. Let me encourage each of you to embrace your mother's domestic teaching. Allow her to probe your heart and direct your affections toward the home. And take it one step further. Appoint yourself as your mom's homemaking assistant. In addition to your assigned chores, be on the lookout for practical ways you can shoulder more of her homemaking responsibilities. In so doing, you will not only receive vital training for your future mission, but you will honor God by expressing your femininity today.
In conclusion, let me leave you with these words from John Angell James:
My young friends, let it be your constant aim, and at the same time your earnest prayer, that you may first of all thoroughly understand your mission, and then diligently prepare for it, and hereafter as successfully fulfill it.6
1 From Girl Talk: Mother-Daughter Conversations on Biblical Womanhood by Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Mahaney Whitacre, copyright 2005, pages 149-55. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Illinois 60187, www.crossway.com.
2 Carolyn Mahaney, Feminine Appeal: Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother (Wheaton IL: Crossway Books, 2004), 21.
3 Lydia Maria Child, The American Frugal Housewife (Boston: Carter and Hendee, 1832), 96.
4 See "For Further Study" in chapter 20 of Girl Talk.
5 Tim Bayly, "Preparing for Motherhood: A Christian Response to the Cultural Attack on Domesticity," Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood 4, nos. 2-3 (Winter 2000): 24-25.
6 John Angell James, Female Piety: A Young Woman's Friend and Guide (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1860; repr. 1995), 97.