…is a baseball metaphor, but for traditional women, it probably is the dinner plate, and it is dirty.
Drawing on the answer I just gave to one of Sarah’s comments, I’d say that a lot of modern women are opposed to the traditional way of life. It’s messy, it’s boring, it’s even humiliating to them. They fear becoming drudges. Modern television advertising seems to reinforce this view. We’ve got better things to do than mop the floor, clean the tub, or cook meals. As for that horror called “doing the dishes,” that’s something close to torture.
Are we really stigmatized by housework? Or is it just a status signal if we don’t have to do it ourselves? Hiring a maid or a cleaning service says, “I can afford leisure,” or “I’m too important to care for my house.” As for having the husband and children do the housework so Mom doesn’t have to – isn’t it stigmatizing them? What it is, really, is a signal that the woman has control of the family, that the others do her bidding, that’s she’s nobody’s fool or servant.
Well, if that makes everyone happy, I guess it’s fine. But it doesn’t.
Don’t think I’m opposed to women working at jobs outside the house, or that men should never do housework, or that the kids should get off scot-free. Women sometimes must work to keep the family together, or they have jobs that contribute a lot to the community. I like that women have careers that matter. I’ve known many older women who were kept home from school to work in the house because their families did not think girls needed education. (I’ve known a few men in traditional farm families who were pulled out of school at a young age because they were big enough to plow!) I believe that everyone has a right to education, whether it is in a community school or at home.
But I also believe that the traditional family works. We see it time after time in the traditional communities, where the family is a unit within the larger group related by blood and faith. It’s far from perfect; children still go astray, married couples still fight, there may be alcoholism, mental illness, hearts broken by innumerable causes. Yet the whole community is there to support people in trouble, loss and grief. The members of the community know what is expected of them in a time of travail. Yes, in those times women tend to gather in the kitchen, making sandwiches and coffee, while the men stand on the porch after the chores, talking seriously. But each gender group gets some work done in their own way, with peer support.
Out here in the larger world we don’t have that traditional framework of support. We can’t even rely on our own families to help us when we are in dire need. They are often overextended financially and chronically – that is, they don’t have the money or time to help. How did we ever get here from the early church, where Christians took in other Christians, even strangers? Two thousand years ago, Christians sold their property, jewellry, and household goods to provide for the poor and sick. They shared everything as necessary – see the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 2, verses 42-47. There weren’t just a few who did this; the apostles had just baptized some three thousand people!
This was not a revolution turning over all the old ways, for Jesus Christ came to fulfill the Law, not destroy it. The old ways of the Jewish culture still worked for early Christians, following the changes concerning kosher and circumcision. The Law was fulfilled; the old family structure kept intact and the old community ways preserved.
In a world where everything happens in a mad rush, where patience is not a virtue but commonly seen as laziness, where respect and dignity are for the weak, and where family life is nothing but internal competition, the traditional way looks outrageous. The mad are calling the sane crazy. No matter how many self-help books we read, Christian or otherwise, advising us to slow down, take thought, be careful, we continue to drive around like we are being chased. We make frantic numbers of phone calls; we spend hours surfing the internet for information, all for some elusive proverbial gain we never realize. We ask for world peace but because we have no peace of heart we try to get that peace by force.
It may seem like a huge leap of logic to go from washing dishes to world peace, but it isn’t really. If we take our God-given place, if we accept the true gifts of God while rejecting the false gifts of the world, if we are concerned for our neighbours as well as ourselves, we will find peace. We find it in the love of God, and in the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus Christ.