All parents remember the first steps their child took as he launched himself, wobbling, towards their waiting arms. Those steps were tiny steps, unsure, but very determined. Your smiling baby was making his first steps towards independence.
Just as a baby is not master of his destiny, a woman is not mistress of her own destiny; indeed, as a Christian, she knows she never is. However, also as a Christian, she has a vision for what could be the glorious possibilities of living a life in line with Christ’s priorities, and even if her legs will not carry her there yet, she wants to take those first baby steps towards what she knows is possible within the will of God.
“I can’t make big changes; I have too many responsibilities,” some say, and it’s true. I can feel how pressured she is, because I’ve been there. I’ve been overwhelmed, tired, and looking for a better way just as she has. And while I’m still in the process of making changes, I believe I can describe some of those baby steps in a way that might be helpful to others.
Perhaps the greatest change that needs to take place is a change of attitude. At the core of consideration is the question, Who is the center of your life? Is it you? Your husband? Your kids? The classic answer is, of course, God, then your husband, then family, then others, then you.
I can hear the groaning, the protests. “But God is at the center of my life, and so is my husband. I just don’t have the time to show it. I have to keep my job, the bills come due every month and there’s no wiggle room in the budget.”
That’s the attitude that needs to change.
Perhaps the truth is that for the time being you need to keep your job. But that doesn’t have to be forever, and leaving your job for more important things can be a quiet goal that undergirds your planning. Perhaps the budget doesn’t have room for you to be a mom-at-home yet. But there are things you can do to pave the way to the moment when you can focus completely on the welfare of your family, as God wills.
Until you can do this in good conscience, that is, leave your job and focus on the welfare and well-being of your family, there are baby steps you can take to start the transition more easily.
The first one, after making sure you are paying attention to God, is to pay attention to your husband. “Say what?” you cry, “I give him all the attention I can. When I’m done with the housework and kid care. When we’re both not exhausted. When, when, when…” It’s the “when” that is the problem, and the manner in which the attention is given. There is nothing like concentrated attention to let your husband know you truly do care about him, that you’re not just talking to him while your attention is somewhere else. It lets him know you care about what he thinks, what his priorities are. In a sense, you are studying your husband to see how you may better help him. Yes, that old helpmeet business you’ve been trying to ignore until you have time, in whichever century that might be.
The bad news is, if you keep going the same direction you’ve been going, that day may never come. The good news is, you can probably help its arrival simply by changing the way you interact with your husband. The more he can see how you care for him and his welfare, the more likely he will see you, at least in his mind’s eye, doing that full-time. And acknowledgment of the value of the wife and mother at home can be a motivator for making it happen.
Sometimes it might be something as simple as looking directly in his eyes when he’s speaking to you, instead of continuing to wash the dishes or pull the laundry from the dryer. Remember the first years of your courtship, when you spent hours gazing into each other’s eyes and talking about your dreams and plans for a future together? Was that the last time you actually paid attention to what he said? Do you even know how his dreams have changed over the years, what his disappointments are? What does he think are his triumphs? Small though you might think those are, they are important to him. As his helpmeet, they must be important to you.
But the kids tug at your skirts, and the onions need sauteed or dinner won’t make it on the table.
While it might be important to keep the onions from burning, I suggest that keeping your husband assured of your interest in his thoughts and plans is ultimately more important than most things you can do. Perhaps he’s been dreaming of the day you could come home and teach your own children instead of the kids assigned to you in your job working for the government schools, and you wouldn’t know it, because you haven’t had a good conversation with him in a long time. Perhaps he feels you don’t know him at all anymore, which is not a good feeling.
Then again, perhaps he feels that, whatever he says, you will contradict him or throw enough wet blankets on his dreams that he becomes discouraged. Is the typical response you give to his ideas, crazy as some of them may seem, “Yes, but…”? If you trot out all the reasons it just can’t be so, can’t be done, and why no one in his right mind would even think of doing it, maybe it’s time to bite your tongue before you trot out all the usual reasons.
Even little children are taught to stop and look both ways before they cross the street, and the street of misunderstanding and disappointment yawns frighteningly wide for those who plunge across without looking. Wisdom recommends looking to see what’s coming down the pike before you step into the street.
Which is more important, being right in your own mind or being in line with your husband’s dreams? You may be surprised at how much in tune your dreams are with his. So be quiet, and listen.
Then again, your dreams may not be in line with his. Where you dream of cooking nutritious meals for your flock, he may want to go out for a night on the town. You may wish for a ten-passenger van filled with your flock; he may want a sports car, on payments, of course. How do you deal with a gross disparity between your dreams and his?
Listen. Listen and do not protest; listen and do not necessarily agree. But listen. In your heart, be in prayer, but give him the gift of your attention, and let him talk. Sometimes a man–and there are no guarantees of this–but sometimes a man will talk out his wildest ideas and then, at the very end of talking, gather himself together and say that all these things are fun and tempting, but there is nothing to compare with the love of a woman like you and the family you have together.
But surely, and conversely I do guarantee this, if you protest and fight him, he will cling to his fancies all the more, and blame you that he is not enjoying those things now. I have seen the latter in the lives of people I am very close to, and it’s a shame that those grudges have sometimes been held until the grave.
So, the first baby step I recommend to you is just this: Listen. Gaze into his eyes and give him the gift of your full attention, even if it’s only for the brief intervals you share in your busy day. You don’t have to change the world, or keep up with the Joneses, for those precious moments in time he wants you to…
And may God bless your willing heart.