Can a Working Wife and Mother be a Proverbs 31 Woman?

A couple of days ago I received an email from Kelly. She was concerned because she wants to be a Proverbs 31 woman, yet she has a job outside the home. This is my reply to her:

The excellent wife of Proverbs 31 not only took care of the home, but also contributed to her family’s income through the making and selling of linen garments and belts.

It is important to remember the cultural aspects of this Biblical passage. It was written when women simply did not work, and certainly not wealthy women like the Proverbs 31 woman. Not only did married women have husbands to look after them, but looking after a home and children was much different back then. Even with servants, food had to be grown from seed, and clothing had to be sewn from thread that came from the spindle. Water was not available on tap, and laundry was not done by machine.

These days, a wife and mother can take time outside her duties to earn an income, while at the same time keeping the quality in her home life. To do so is often a financial necessity. The key here is priority: the family comes first. Older readers will recall how their fathers worked in secure jobs, while their mothers raised the family and ran the home. Today, a husband can easily lose his job due to restructuring, leaving the family in a dire financial position. Two income families are now the norm rather than the exception. Many couples like the security that comes from knowing they will always be able to fall back on the second income, and they are wise enough to live on the one income while they save from the other. Others simply cannot survive on one income. That is not a defect in the husband’s ability to support his family. Things have changed, and modern couples have had to change right along with them.

Many couples feel secure in knowing that the wife could support herself and the children if he were to suddenly die, life insurance notwithstanding. In Biblical times, members of the community looked after widows. That is no longer the case.

In another cultural shift, men no longer feel threatened (as my grandfather would have) that their wives work. Modern men prefer a wife who is a true life’s partner. I’m sure the Proverb 31 woman’s husband felt that way.  She worked from her home, making quality merchandise that was in demand. Then that income that was generated can put back into the building up of their home, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Kelly, you didn’t tell me anything about your skills, education or past experience. I don’t know whether you work from home or outside the home.

There are many women today who supplement the family income with home ventures, often based on their talents or hobbies. Some women give piano lessons. Some women tutor children in reading or math. Some women love to sew and deliver their work from their homes as the Proverbs 31 woman did. This works especially well for women who have small children who do not yet attend school.

Some women work from their homes for other companies, such as those who sell Avon or Tupperware.

Then there are the women who begin businesses, but they run the businesses from a home office (with a huge tax benefit).

And, of course, there are teachers, nurses, office workers, who leave their homes in the morning and work elsewhere. Their children are in school, and many of them are able to juggle their work schedules to greet them when they come home.

I’m sure that many readers will disagree with me, but it all comes down to this: what makes a Proverbs 31 woman is a matter of attitude and priority — working for the good of the family, and not allowing the family to suffer as a result of your job. Many stay-at-home mothers are unhappy with their lives. They watch TV instead of housework, inspiring the children to do the same when they grow up.

Surely THAT is not living Proverbs 31!

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