Happiness and SAHMs

Dear Reader,

[A lot of the following is from a comment I made on another blog; hopefully it still comes off as smooth and intelligible even out of context.]

Do you notice that a lot of us SAHMs do not seem very happy? We seem to spend a lot of time complaining. Personally, I do think I have a pretty good husband but I still can feel a lot of the time unappreciated and taken advantage of by my family.  As background, I am a SAHM, homeschooling mom to 4 kids ages 5 through 10. One has a chronic illness (type 1 diabetes) which requires intensive management (including checking her blood sugar at least once a night every night) and two others who have lately had persistent if not as serious heath issues. 

For myself, I know I am fortunate to be able to stay home with my kids and I wouldn’t really want it nay other way. But it is still really hard sometimes not to feel put upon. It can be a very thankless job. Our husbands go out to work and get to interact with other adults all day. They have bosses who hopefully give them praise or feedback regularly. If nothing else they get a paycheck which at least tells them their work is worth something. A SAHM does not automatically get any of those things. And our work has little lasting value. What I man by that is that whatever we do gets undone quickly. Change a diaper? You will be doing it again in  a few hours. The same with feeding your family and cleaning up after them. Some days it can seem everything we do not only doesn’t get noticed but gets undone almost as soon as we’ve done it. And even if we know they aren’t aware of it, it is hard not to take that personally. And to think that they should notice and just automatically be more considerate of us.

Having said all of which, I think what we really need is to think of our lives and jobs differently. As I am sure you know, when couples fight, there is often a larger issue at play. We may fight about food or socks but there is really some bigger subtext going on. But I also don’t think that is the end of it. I think the real issue is not usually about the marriage or the division of chores.

I think for all of us SAHMs (or anyone really) there is a spiritual issue at work. When I get grumbling, my husband is the easiest, closest target, but really I am not having a godly attitude and that is  a basic heart issue. God tells us not to complain. Complaining is the opposite of being thankful to Him and trusting in His provision for us. I don’t want to make this all sound easy because it is not. I think it is one of the hardest things out there to have the right attitude and to trust that although our families may not see and appreciate all the things that we do for them, our Father in heaven does see and will reward us for our service. Christianity calls us to a lot of delayed gratification. God calls us to serve others without counting the cost and without necessarily getting reward or thanks or respect for it right away.

Our society tells us to pursue happiness. But God tells us to pursue holiness. I think the reason being a mom and staying at home to care for your family is so hard is that it is also one of the most sanctifying things you can do. It requires a lot of sacrifice. It begins when our bodies are taken over by other little people waiting to be born and I am coming to think that it only gets harder when they are outside and we have to consciously make choices to accommodate them. Usually the times in our lives that are most miserable are when God is working the most in us. And remember that it is His own image we are being conformed to. And He is no stranger to unappreciated sacrifice. He suffered and died for His friends when they had no clue what He was doing and would have told Him it was useless and unnecessary.

I am not saying we should just have to suck it up and put on a happy face because God is working in our lives. I don’t see any reason to pretend to be happy when you aren’t. The Psalms are full of God’s people crying out to Him and I think one could do a lot worse than to follow their example.

For practical advice, I would say:

1. If there are issues n your household over the division of labor, talk calmly to your husband about them. Make it about your needs and give him concrete little ways to help (maybe putting his dishes in the dishwasher instead of the sink or getting his socks in the hamper instead of on the floor). Even if he doesn’t respond well at first keep trying to talk when you are calm. And try to see his side too. And if he does try to help, don;t micromanage or tell him how =he did it wrong (this is where I fail a lot I am afraid).

2. Train your kids to help around the house. It is harder when they are little and not able to do much but you serve them better in the long run to teach them to do things themselves. You do not actually serve them well by just doing everything for them.

3. Make sure your standards for your house are not too high. It doesn;t have to be perfect when kids are little, just livable.

4. Seek our good Christian women to confide in and support you. If a group tends to sit around complaining about their husbands, their attitude will rub off on you. What you need is a more mature, probably older woman who has been there done that and come through the better for it.

5.  Don’t neglect your own spiritual life. God calls us to serve and do our work for 6 days a week but He also orders us to rest and worship so don’t forget those things.

6. And the biggest thing, the think I think is key to the entire Christian walk, is to learn to see ourselves rightly before God. We need to see our own sinfulness and need but also to see the great price He has paid for us. It takes conscious effort but we need to learn to turn our thoughts from complaining to thankfulness.

Nebby

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Hello Nebby,
    Some good points there for sure. I just want to add that your children are young and a LOT of seemingly non rewarding work goes on at your place, but it is not always like this. While I have undoubtedly felt the division of labour to be unfair at times :- ( I have never doubted the high calling of motherhood and feel the rewards outweigh the downers….by far!

    Reply

  2. Posted by Jen on January 17, 2011 at 3:20 am

    Hi Nebby,

    This is Jen, we have been discussing some things over at BlogFrog, I’m the one who posted that “breadwinner” question. My apologies again for the poor wording of the question. I have really appreciated everyone’s input on that question.

    I read your post here; very insightful and you have good advice. I am working on the “being a Godly woman” thing…it is new to me and not something my own mother modeled AT ALL (she’s still a good person, just bitter), and that has brought some challenges to my own married life to say the least. I still stand behind all my writing in regards to the BlogFrog question, but I also know that I have some work to do on my own attitude and my understanding of what it means to be married.

    I appreciate your writing – I definitely need to be in contact with other Christian moms who are also trying to figure some of this out. Thank you!

    Jen from “Say What You Need to Say”

    Reply

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