A recent study conducted by the financial service company Investopedia found that the sum value of different homemaking duties annually amounts to almost six figures (1). If a homemaker’s job were salaried, it would draw, on average, $96,291 per year. The website states:
We examined some of the tasks that a homemaker might do to find out how much [such] ser- vices would net as individual professional careers. We only [took] into consideration tasks which have monetary values and [we used] the lowest value for each calculation.
Duties accounted for included private chef, house cleaner, childcare provider, driver, and laundry service provider. Needless to say, this research offers a strong caution against underestimating the “economic replacement value” of homemakers.
UNDERACHIEVERS OR UNDERAPPRECIATED?
There’s no escaping the fact that contemporary society often scoffs at stay-at-home wives and moms. “This isn’t the 1950s anymore,” the thinking goes. “Why in the world would someone want to be imprisoned in her own home?” The common idea, of course, is that many responsibilities on the home front should be outsourced, thus releasing moms from domestic shackles to realize vocational dreams. While women working in vocations outside the home isn’t wrongheaded in every case, it can frequently betray a prioritization that is biblically questionable.
HOMEBOUND OR HOMEWARD?
The home isn’t a woman’s “place.” Scripture does, however, suggest that it ought to be her priority. Her chief orientation, in other words, should be homeward.
Contrary to popular belief, this idea isn’t rooted in mid-twentieth century misogynism, either. In fact, long before the rise of Western societal norms, Paul exhorted older women to “teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled” (Titus 2:3-5). Elsewhere the apostle wrote, “I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander” (1 Tim. 5:14).
Did you catch what’s at stake? Women are encour- aged to labor at home so that God’s Word won’t be reviled (Titus 2:5) and so that God’s enemy won’t be able to revile (1 Tim. 5:14). Homemaking, then, far from being a regrettable vestige of patriarchal repression; it is a glorious calling imbued with cosmic significance. Stay-at-home wives and moms are uniquely positioned to defend the honor of God’s word and to render the ancient serpent speechless. Such a job may seem menial, but it’s far from meaningless.
JUST TO BE CLEAR
A couple brief clarifications are in order. First off, I must admit that I mixed feelings about the Investopedia study. I’m not quite sure what to think about the $96,291 figure. Perhaps it ought to be higher; perhaps it ought to be lower. Either way, it matters little to me, for the worth of homemaking doesn’t rest on monetary estimates calculated by financial agencies. In my judgment, the utility of the study lies neither in providing an inerrant statistic nor in denigrating any woman who for a multiplicity of reasons may have to work in a vocation beyond her household. Single moms, for example, are just as heroic in my eyes.
Second, it’s critical to note that husbands and dads get no hall pass when it comes to the affairs of the home—a fact repeatedly stressed in Scripture (see, for example, 1 Tim. 3:4-5, 12; 1 Tim. 5:8; Titus 1:6; 2 Cor. 12:14; Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:21).
Nevertheless, God has uniquely entrusted wives and moms with a primary responsibility to serve as caretakers in the home. Such a calling is neither inferior nor imprisoning, and it certainly isn’t for the faint of heart. Clothed with strength and dignity, God’s woman has a divine mission to silence Satan.
QUIETLY FAITHFUL AND WORTHY OF HONOR
Proverbs 14:1 states, “The wise woman builds her house” (cf. Prov. 24:3-4). While the monetary value and practical feasibility of full-time homemaking may vary from home to home, what remains constant is the irreplaceable significance of a homemaker’s contributions. The Investopedia article concludes:
The daily work of a homemaker can sometimes be taken for granted….However, these services could earn a homemaker a considerable wage if [she] took those skills to the marketplace. Home-makers, in general, contribute a lot more to the home in addition to these tasks and no amount of money can fill those needs.
Indeed, no study could ever fully quantify the ser- vice of a mother who “looks well to the ways of her household” (Prov. 31:27). At the very least, this research should prompt us to express fresh appreciation to those stay-at-home moms whom we love and who, though receiving little recognition in the eyes of the world, are faithful and treasured in the eyes of their King.
(1) http://financialedge.investopedia.com/financial- edge/0112/How-Much-Is-A-Homemaker-Worth. aspx
About the Author: Matt Smethurst (M.Div., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Assistant Editor for The Gospel Coalition. He and his wife Maghan have one daughter and live in Louisville, Kentucky, where they are members of Third Avenue Baptist Church.
[Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in The Journal of Discipleship and Family Ministry 2.2.]