Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism

What being a Proverbs 31 Women really means.

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If you don’t know about the standards Proverbs 31 sets for wives, I will post a link with a detailed explanation shortly.

Proverbs 31 is a wonderful passage of the bible. However, it’s literal meaning has been perverted into a system that no human being can fulfill. You might say “No way! The bible does ask for the best, but it’s not impossible!”. I partially agree, but the way I see P31 put into practice is just utopic.

Let’s look at the day of an actual P31 woman. She is married. Her husband works at least one, most likely 2 or more jobs to provide for the 10+ kids. Like many fundamentalists, they live in a very rural area where any other person who could help lives at least 30 mins away (by car). Her kids are naturally homeschooled.

Her day starts very early. Depending on the ages of the kids, it might just start at 4 AM. For the sake of fairness, we’ll be suggesting getting up at 5:30 AM which is a perfectly normal time for a mother with that many kids. The very little ones might have kept her away during parts of the night, and now every form of sleep is impossible. She gets up and has about 10 minutes to prepare herself, get dressed etc. If possible, she will take another 10 minutes to herself to read the bible in silence. After that, she has 10 minutes to start the breakfast business up. At 6 AM, she will start waking up the kids. The smaller kids might need her help getting dressed and teeth brushed, unless she has bigger daughters who help her with that. Either way she will keep a rough overview over bath times and what’s to wear so there are no fights and nobody ends up wearing something she didn’t pick out the night before.

During this, she will run back and forth between the kitchen and the kid’s rooms. Breakfast for 12 people will need to be prepared. She makes several loads of toasts, readies bowls, milk and cornflakes, makes coffee. She also prepares a lunchbox for her husband. It is now 6:30 AM and her husband wakes up (or has woken up shortly before). He gets ready and shortly after, her husband and the kids are ready for breakfast. They (hopefully) sit down together for a quick bible time in the morning. Her husband will leave the breakfast table at 7 AM and go to work. She is now alone with all the kids. She will start collecting laundry around the house, clean up breakfast, get dishes ready to be washed. The older kids might help her, unless they get some time off at this point. Once she has finished preparing laundry and started the first load to be washed, homeschool starts. It is 8-8:30 AM. The older kids sit down and do some early morning silent work. She will do a first run with the smaller kids on reading and writing, and maybe basic math. Now it is about 9:30. It’s time to start preparing a lunch meal, unless the family eats cold lunch. In my family, a full cooked lunch was normal. Once she has prepared the basics for lunch and things that take a longer time started to cook, its about 10 and the older kids get to work on the harder stuff which they need mom’s supervision for. She teaches for two hours, always running back and forth between lunch, laundry, the smaller kids having their troubles, and the older kids with their questions. This goes on until about 12. Now it’s time to bring full attention to the meal and give the kids time to relax before lunch.

Lunch is between 12:30 and 1 PM. it takes her some time to feed the smaller ones as well, so the older kids might already be relaxing, doing chores or reading and playing while mom is still busy feeding lunch. After the small ones are done, she and the older kids do chores around the house: Cleaning, more laundry, more dishes, more cleaning, maybe some garden work. Depending on how much work was there to do, school starts back up at 2 or 3 PM. The older kids do silent works while the small ones get another repeat of reading and writing lessons, and then again the older kids with harder stuff. Maybe dad come home some time of the day to eat, so he would have needed some attention to have a meal as well.

After school, the clock reads 6 PM. It’s time for a meal again and prepare the messy house for the return of the husband. The smaller kids will get a last feed and bath and will be taken to bed soon. The older ones help with this. During laundry, cleaning up and cooking, the wife might take some time to freshen up for her husband. The husband comes home from work and eats with the family (or at least the part of it that’s still awake). It’s maybe 7 PM. The husband now has time for his bible studies. The wife will iron today’s laundry while the family sits and listens to his bible study. At 8 PM, the older kids prepare for bed. Wife is still ironing, picking out clothes for the next day, checking her schedule for the next day (doctor appointments? any special events? Do I have to bake for church? Is there sewing work to do the next night? Do we need to fit grocery shopping in? etc etc). Between 9 and 10, the older kids go to sleep on their own, or at least retreat to their bedrooms. The wife might do some last touch ups on the house and prepare paperwork, look at the homeschool schedule, and such things, and of course run for one of the babies that’s woken up. At about 10 or 11, the husband wants to go to bed. It’s now the time to fulfill her wifely duties on him. He falls asleep while she runs for the baby again.

12:30 AM Baby cries

1:30 AM Toddler cries

3 AM Baby cries again and won’t fall asleep for an hour

4 AM Toddler cries. She’s awake anyway.

4:30 She goes to bed for a final hour of sleep.

Including very little naps, the wife might get a total of 6 hours of sleep on average. She might have to do some work at home to add to the family income. If there are special days like birthdays and holidays, the work adds up more and more. More cleaning, more cooking, more everything, and not only for a day, this usually increases the stress for a week.

 

Not all christian families are like this. I do not judge big families. I love big families and kids especially. If you can do it, by any means go for it! But you must realize that being a wife and mom to many kids is not a full time job. It’s 3 full time jobs and some extra hours. In a healthy family, the father should take some of this weight on his shoulders and help his wife with cleaning, cooking and child raising.

One thought on “What being a Proverbs 31 Women really means.

  1. I remember being permanently exhausted when my 3 eldest kids were 3, 20 months and newborn; the way you describe how little ones take turns to wake up in the night brings back so many memories. My husband worked away during the week, but I did have some help from my in-laws, and they paid for a cleaner to come to my house once a week. I also had a dishwasher, and my eldest went to playgroup three mornings a week.

    One by one my kids started school, and life got easier. I was able to train as a midwife and work part-time. I can’t imagine a life like the one you describe – I don’t see how a woman could possibly keep her health and sanity in those circumstances.

    And I agree 100% with your last paragraph! Your writing is incisive and truthful.

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