I Need a Wife

Every Friday my column appears in a bunch of papers in Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week I talk about how margin can easily slip away with busyness.

I have always been a stay-at-home mom, but with my writing I’ve moved more and more towards “working from home”, and it’s eating so much of our margins. My husband and I are taking a weekend retreat in two weeks to pray about how to do life differently, because this isn’t what we want. At the same time, it’s difficult because we’ve felt that God was moving both of us in the direction we are now. So we’re going to put all options on the table and ask God to help us find the win-win. Sometimes all couples need to do that! And if you could pray for wisdom for us, that would be great.

I need a wifeI love to-do lists and organization planners. I have Excel spreadsheets for household chores and the business tasks I need to complete on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. On good days, when I don’t hit the snooze button, I actually get most of those things done.

There’s only one problem. I have no margins in my life. If I’m super organized and super energetic, it is possible to keep my house clean and to get all my work done and, hopefully, to head to the grocery store before we’re stuck discovering that all we have in the cupboards are tins of cranberry sauce and tuna. But if an emergency comes up, I’m in trouble.

My husband works more than full-time, and my writing and speaking require my full-time attention and too much travel. Because I write primarily on marriage, it’s also really hard to neglect mine, or that “hypocrite” word might get tossed around. And with my oldest now flown the coop, I’m trying to spend as much time as I can with my youngest before she leaves, too.

Life is simply busy. Pretty much everyone feels that way. But I think one of the biggest sources of stress isn’t the amount of work on our plate; it’s that nagging feeling that one more straw is going to cause the whole thing to come crashing down.

We used to have some buffer in our lives. At one time women were home to bring dinners to friends in the hospital, or to take parents to doctors’ appointments, or to care for a sister’s child if said sister caught a disgusting intestinal bug. Today few of us have people we can rely on. And what’s perhaps even worse is that we aren’t able to be there for those that we love, either.

When my cousin had a baby recently and needed help, I wasn’t in the position to go. What kind of life are we leading if we don’t have the room to be there for those that we love?

Yet my problem doesn’t stop there. What if, in all of our chaos of making more money, we’re actually missing out on a “good life”? A “good life” has to involve little touches of creativity and beauty: that home-cooked meal instead of the barbecued chicken we picked up on the way home; those refinished dressers instead of the Ikea assemble-yourself plywood; the crocheted baby afghans. One of the things I miss most lately is the joy of friends coming for dinner, an event which is quite difficult if you’re never home to cook dinner, let alone to clear a path to the dining room table.

My business started off extremely part time, but it has mushroomed, for which I am grateful. My husband is doing well at his job, for which I am proud. Yet I am not certain that this is the life I want. If I have no room for emergencies, and little room for beauty and hospitality and fun, then what is the point?

The dual income family is now the norm, and that won’t change. Certainly we could all lower our expectations and work less. The reduction in stress is likely worth the reduction in income. Yet that is not always easy to do. And in the meantime, there is no one left to “keep the homefires burning”. We women felt undervalued when we were “just housewives”, but gradually, as most women work, more and more of us are realizing just how valuable having someone at home was. That spouse didn’t just care for the kids and do the housework; that spouse gave you that buffer, that margin, that made life liveable. I can’t give up a business I’ve spent years creating, but in the meantime, I could really use a wife.

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Comments

  1. This is the very reason I quit my job to stay at home. I didn’t even have kids before I made the decision. Granted, it’s just as easy to fill up my schedule and allow no room for margin as a homemaker, but it is also easier to let things go every now and then. It’s all about balance, isn’t it? There’s no magic in staying home, really. You have to learn discipline, balance and discernment just like women who work outside the home. I can be just as present or just as absent as the next girl if I’m not keeping my priorities straight.

    Great article, Sheila!

    • Carrie, absolutely! I know there were times when I was homeschooling where I felt almost as overwhelmed, like I just couldn’t get everything done. We do ask ourselves to do too much I think, and I really need some re-evaluating about what our family is going to let go.

  2. ButterflyWings says:

    It is so refreshing to see a blog that doesn’t outright criticism women for working. Most bloggers on the topic talk about how women are being selfish, working to get their “mcmansions” and their expensive overseas holidays. Which ignores the realities of families like mine.

    I’d love to be a stay at home. I have health problems and shouldn’t be working. But we discovered soon after we got married, my husband’s income alone could only support his mortgage and one person – not three people including one with expensive health problems, and certainly not four as we soon will be. We don’t own a “mcmansion” – we live in a simple two bedroom + small study townhouse. And our “holidays” are to go back to our hometown once a year to spend christmas with our families where we stay (uncomfortably) between family members, and my daughter and I go without hubby in the middle of the year for her to see my parents, and we stay with them. We don’t have expensive cars (mine is a small car, as cheap as they come, and my husband’s car is a 25 year old rustbucket).

    Basically I work, because it’s the only way to pay the bills. Maybe in a few years when hubby gets promoted and/or if we have more kids in which case childcare would cost more than what I make so no point in working. But for now, I’m stuck working. I’d love to be a stay at home mum – I would love time to spend with my daughter without a million things to be done at once.

    It’s one of the saddest things about society these days – so many women have to work just to keep a roof over the family’s heads and food on the table.

  3. Anonymous Please says:

    I am in a similar situation as butterflywings. When I was newly pregnant with our last child, hubby was demoted due to the dire economic situation in our state. We lost our house, had to move into a small apartment, and sold many of our possessions as a result. I am currently working a high stress part time job, struggle with health issues, make 95% of our meals from scratch (we cannot spend $4 for just one loaf of bread!) and try to have a bit of energy left over to be a mommy and wife. Needless to say, it is more than a little difficult. I am trying desperately to hold out until my youngest is in school to go back to work full time, which means all dreams of homeschooling my children are gone, as well. There is little time to work on outside relationships. Even those friends that we see regularly at worship are only allowed a moment here and there as we watch our children play after services, or a comment on social media now and then. It is very sad, really.

  4. I so appreciate this article. Thank you for being so honest about where you are and the tensions of that. I am loving my job and at the same time am sad to not be home, taking care of things, making them nicer and more comfortable and more life-supporting. And we are expecting a baby this spring, and I am just not sure what things should or will look like then! It is very complicated :D

  5. Yes, it’s amazingly hard to believe that ‘we woman’ fought for this right to both work and take care of the home, and kids, and pets, and church and neighbors, and family, AND, AND, AND.

    Not having my son until I was 38 I enjoyed working and building a career, that turned into a business. Right now I’d just like to QUIT. And not just work! Trying to be super woman at 50 and enjoy the years I have left with my 12 year old son and live a healthy life just leave me spread too thin. I thought I had found the magic solution – sleep less – so for almost 5 years I slept only 3-4 nights a week. Don’t try it ladies, it will kick you in the rear later with health issues and a chronic fatigue you may never recover from…

    I have learned to let more things go. Appearances and a well-kept house for starters. I grew up in a home with a stay at home Mom and I CANNOT maintain the family activities and house like she did, and run a serious business while being that single mom and homeowner at the same time. I feel it necessary to own a home, rent is just not a financial trade-off I’m willing to make. I have creatively hired ‘unskilled’ people who are without jobs in my community to earn a few bucks here and there keeping the cleaning and yard work acceptable and providing a way to help others and witness to Christ at the same time. That idea is one worth sharing and is the only real WIN-WIN solution to being spread too thin that I’ve found. I have new friends as a result of that one!!!

    If you have ideas on how to solve the “I need a wife” gambit – PLEASE POST YOUR DISCOVERED SOLUTIONS. Many of us are in the same boat and do not have time to form a support group to share our ideas!! (This would be IT)

  6. I grew up with a mom who worked 60 or more hours a week, raised 2 kids on her own (we are 7years apart), did the taxi run to hockey dance theatre etc. I remember how stitched thin she was and how tired because it would be midnight before going to bed and up at 5 am. I know she needed a wife! To this day I admire her more than anything, she is my hero and taught me well. I am lucky to be a stay home mom though I wasn’t always. I used to work long hours as a stylist and my husband has crazy hours in the military. I have health problems as well and can never work again but can’t get disability. So we live on one income and its tough. I have a great friend who has 3 kids lives on child support so I pay her to help me around house. Laundry she is amazing at and I hate, cleaning, running of kids. I have found that there are good people out there that need a little help especially during the holidays. I don’t know what I would do without her. If you have a friend, family, friend of family in a situation like this or they just need a bit of help and are good at something give them a chance and you may have found a ” Wife or Husband”. Men are good at things to like the yard, handyman, construction etc.

    I love your blogs and glad there are so many good Christian people out there!

  7. Shelia,
    Thank you so much for this post! I feel like this too. My heart is called home even though my husband and I don’t have children yet just because I want to have it be a haven and a restful place. But as a wife who is following her husband, I’m working. I know that it’s to build up savings so when I do stay home he feels better about our financial situation. I don’t pretend to know how much that worries him because it doesn’t me. But I do know that how I feel about the house doesn’t worry him like it does me. Eventually we’ll all find our place the feels better.

    Also, thank you for all your posts on marriage. As a newly-wed (a year and 4 months), your posts on communication, conflict resolution and sdjusting to living together have been so helpful. Thank you for being a web-based Titus 2 mentor! It’s been difficult for me to find one in real life.

  8. I cannot begin to tell you how timely your post was and how much it spoke to me!

    I am 48, divorced after a 20 year abusive marriage, remarried for almost two years, have two sons ages 18 and almost 22 both of whom live with my husband and I, and had been a homeschooling, stay-at-home mom for years before my ex walked out almost 6 years ago leaving me to find a job to support myself and my two sons.

    I went back to school at the age of 45 to become a medical assistant and got a job right out of school at a local medical clinic. I worked there until a year ago when my youngest son was having some major emotional problems and my husband and I mutually decided it would be best that I was home full time.
    I quit my job and have been home now for a little over a year, and my son is thriving!

    I LOVE being home! I’ve always loved being a homemaker, even if that word is outdated. I grew up with a mom that stayed home full time and she has always said how she absolutely loves being home and does not regret not working even after we kids were grown and out of the house.

    Lately though, I’ve been feeling a little guilty for having the opportunity to stay home. After all, my kids are not little anymore and I often get this nagging feeling I’m not doing enough to help us out…mainly financially. I do some freelance writing, but that doesn’t bring in a lot each month and honestly, after working as a medical assistant, I don’t think that is the job for me. I would love to find something to do at home, like make and sell items…I love to be crafty and make rice bags, decorative home wreaths, etc.
    But this nagging, guilty feeling has settled in and I think perhaps it is because most of my women friends work and most have to work to help make ends meet. I’ve had a couple people actually express their jealousy of my being able to stay home, and that doesn’t help.
    One dear friend though, did say to me that perhaps I just need to allow myself to enjoy the life I have in front of me. I need to give myself permission to be okay with where I’m at. And as long as my husband is okay with me being home and not working, then to embrace it.

    So, I’m going to have a heart to heart talk with my husband this weekend so I know for sure we are on the same page with me being home full time, and if so, then I am going to embrace the life I have and give myself permission to be happy in it.
    Amy recently posted…A good, happy life…My Profile

  9. I would give almost anything to be at home. Even part time. I work at an insurance agency my parents own, and my (sort of) adopted sister works here too. And that’s a HUGE blessing. But I still don’t like it. My house is totally trashed, laundry is almost never done, and making dinner is a very difficult chore. It’s just me and my husband, and I don’t even want kids yet for several reasons, but one of those is I want to stay home with my kids. But I can’t.

    I followed to way I was supposed to, and went to college. And graduated. My husband did 2 years, but his grandparents paid it all up front, so he has no debt. I have at least $45,000 left just for my 4 years at school. Plus we have a car loan. I know some are going to say that that was our biggest mistake, but the way I saw it, it was either keep paying for mechanical repairs for my old car, and have it constantly rain and snow into my drivers seat because the window wouldn’t stay up, or have a car payment. That’s my decision. But the college thing? What was it even for?! I use it a bit in my work, but insurance is just it’s own test. No schooling, just study, pass, and sell insurance.

    WHAT DO I DO? What to those of us with all this debt because we did what we were supposed to do (and would likely do again if we had it to do over)?? I desperately want out of this work cycle. I’m only 24, and my life is passing by so fast I’m going to be 60 by tomorrow. I can’t keep up with it, and I’m always stressed about it. But even with all my husband’s overtime, if I stop working, we can’t afford to live.

    So what advice is there for us? We’ve paid off one small loan, and starting in January are going to throw every extra penny at another small loan, and then the car loan. But after that there is still $44,000 left. I have read all the advice of “Get rid of TV! Change cell phones!” etc, but those have contracts that will cost us more than we’d save by switching anything.

    Sorry for all the ranting, I just feel stuck. What options are left?

    • Stephanie P says:

      Katie, I read your post and my heart feels the heaviness in your words….When we are in debt we are enslaved to it….My husband and I have been married almost 12 years…We just recently graduated college 1 1/2 years ago (we are 33)…because we thought it would offer a better lifestyle for us so that hopefully we could get higher paying jobs and pay our way out of debt so that i could be a stay-at-home mom to our 2 young children….unfortunately we are in the same boat, but worse because our student loans are due….not sure really how we are going to stay afloat once we start paying both monthly payments…the stress is building and anxiety…yet we did this to ourselves thinking that we were doing the ‘right’ thing…now in hindsight I think it is only ‘right’ in the world’s eye….most companies want experience on top of a degree….entry-level jobs are so hard to get right now and we are regretting ever going to college….

      it sounds like you are doing the right thing by throwing all of your extra money to pay off your debt….we are trying that too….please don’t become discouraged…keep up the good fight…but my advice….maybe once a month or quarter use the money you would put towards the debt and do something fun with your husband…even if it is only going out to eat at a nice restaurant or a movie…most wouldn’t advise that…but if my husband and I do that..it gives us moment of relief and eases the pressure just for a moment….and gives us a little motivation to keep up the disciplined life we are trying to live the rest of the year….YOU CAN DO THIS!!! Just keep pushing through…. :)…praying for you and your husband.

      • Thanks so much for your encouragement! We’ve got monthly payments on everything right now, but on a graduated deferral program. So next year one of the payments will go up, and I’m going to have to defer it again to stay afloat.

        I wholeheartedly agree about a de-stress evening. We’re not robots!

        Thanks for the prayers too!

      • When we had three kids, 2, 4, and 6, we were always broke. Medical bills etc. We decided that we needed to do something for ourselves, so we created a “date night”. We told the kids they were going to bed early, but didn’t have to go to sleep right away. “Mommy and Daddy were going to have a date night and were not to be disturbed.” They got the message and did very well. We prepared ourselves a nice meal, set up the TV trays on the back steps, with candles and had a candle light dinner under the evening sky. We took the time to talk with each other about anything and everything that we never seemed to have time for. To this day, our kids remember those times.

    • ButterflyWings says:

      Can you go see a financial counsellor?

      Just keep in mind that they can’t help everyone all of the time. But they can help most people most of the time, and until you go to one, you won’t know.

      Suggestions you mention sound familiar. Like “get rid of pay tv” “get rid of mobile phones”, even “get rid of the internet” etc, and ignore a person’s actual situation. We never had pay tv, we had mobile phones instead of a home phone because we needed a phone and mobiles were cheaper than a fixed home line. We had internet because I was at uni and my daughter at school, and basically you can’t go to uni without internet – hence why I had a scholarship – precisely to pay for things like that. And my daughter needed it for school.

      Things like change providers for electricity and gas… they assume that people aren’t already on the cheapest plans available.

      I got fed up when I was a single parent because people assumed that it was an expense problem, rather than the reality is it was an income problem. With giant debts my exhusband had run in my name, there were few options – I could declare bankruptcy, but it would mean never being able to buy a house in the future for example – and worse, due to bankruptcy rules, I’d lose my car. Being physically disabled, I rely on my car. I can’t use public transport, and taxis here cost the earth – and with both my medical appointments and my daughter’s therapy being all over a huge city, we simply couldn’t afford to lose the car.

      The only things I had left to cut were food and medical expenses – so I did. I often went without food, and even now, I go without much needed medical care despite now being remarried and hubby working full time. Being in Australia, we live with a crazy system where private health insurance doesn’t cover doctors, doesn’t cover medications and other medical necessities. The public system is only subsidised not “free” as many Australians foolishly believe – or if you want entirely free care, you get substandard care, and can wait up to 5 years to see a specialist and wait over 10 years for some types of surgery.

      Whether people are living in poverty because they cannot work and rely on welfare, or whether they are one of the many working poor out there, it can be so difficult to get those who are luckier in life to understand what it’s like to have expenses greater than your income and yet have nowhere left to cut back on other than necessities like food and/or medical care.

      I wish I had some great advice about saving money – but speaking to a financial counsellor is all I know. But just know that you are not alone and that you are being prayed for.

  10. I am blessed to be a stay-home mom.
    I love that I get to homeschool my four children.

    I am still stretched too thin. There is no longer an army of at-home moms to do the volunteer ‘stuff’ of bringing meals to families in crisis, watching each others kids on pd days, running Sunday School plays, etc. So it all falls on the two of us (yup, just two in our church) who are at home full time.

    I, too, could use a wife!!

    The solution, I think, lies in adjusting our expectations of each other and of our selves:
    The house is not going to look like a page out of “Better Homes and Gardens” – have friends over anyway. When you are invited somewhere that’s less than pristine, don’t judge. It’s all part of practicing hospitality.
    The meals are not going to always be perfect – eat together and with others you care about anyway.
    Maybe the Sunday School doesn’t need to do a full-blown pageant this year. The kids are all over stressed too – give them a break this year.

    There is no easy answer, but it’s not only the moms who will have to compromise something to make life work!

  11. Okay, I totally just realized how negative I am when I comment on here. But I think it’s because whenever I comment, I’m at a “Help-I’m-at-my-wit’s-end!” kind of moment.

    I do get a lot of encouragement from this blog, which is why I check it every day! So, thanks for all you do Sheila!

  12. Some people might be upset by this. I love reading your blog. I get the emails and they generally pile up with the rest of the blogs I follow. On a sick day, down day, or waiting for someone I will catch up on the reading. What if you were to cut back by two posts a week? It makes me so sad to think that my need for your marriage insights would take away from your ability to help others. I’m sure many of your readers would agree that we could handle a couple less posts a week knowing that you had some time to go puddle stomping or read a book that’s just for fun. I hope that you can come up with a plan that will take some of the stress out :). I’m trying to do the same. It’s so difficult!

    • I agree. I follow several blogs and Sheila is the only one who posts every day. Maybe every other day would be fine!? I know your blog is helpful to so many, myself included, but we could get by with a few days without a post. Also, maybe putting a day in between posts would give readers time to mull it over before youove on to the next topic. Just a thought.

  13. Hi Sheila!
    I totally understand the spot you are in. We are all only human…as much as we like to think of ourselves as super-women, we are not. I think anything outside of the first priorities of wife/mother that is pulling on those priorities needs to be re-evaulated. I am going through that JUST THIS WEEK! How timely your thoughts are! I have four children five and under and just found out I’m expecting my fifth! I homeschool my five-year-old but now we are getting behind due to my terrible morning sickness (which I always get). We were going to be moving but now that’s on hold and we’ve pulled our sign, as I’m in no condition to move AND the children are just getting better from seven weeks of an upper respiratory sickness!! So, while all of this is going on, last Friday I got asked to be the treasurer for the Ladies’ Board at Church, its a guild that takes care of fundraisers and fun parish events and receptions after funerals, etc….Well, I was thrilled. My first instinct was to say no because I would be OVER EXTENDING myself. But I talked to my husband and then thought to myself, “well, if you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem, and I’m always complaining about things.” So I said yes. I’ve regretted it the whole past week!!! Truly! In my heart I know its too much. Yet, there’s some adult peer pressure involved. The next morning was the first meeting with the new board and I knew during it that it was going to be too much. I”ve been praying and thinking all week about humbling myslef and telling the president I can’t do it. The other ladies have two children each but they are not super women either. They are choosing this as a priority. But during the meeting I saw one of the young husbands walking around two tired little toddlers while they waited for their mom to get out of her meeting that she’s helping run! It hit me hard as I realized that I was putting my husband and kids second too!! How I would love to be part of it though!!! But my first role is here as a wife and mom – and its a hard, beautiful, glorious role. But somehow we stay at home mothers are judged to have more time on our hands to help with these things, when in reality we are so busy. Busy with the bread and butter of life. I feel for you Sheila, but just remember, the nagging feeling in your heart is indeed a sign that something has to go. I say that from total experience. You will have so much peace if you can shed a few things. When we are pulled every which way too much it disrupts the calm that we need to be able to bring to our home, husband and children. Its a tough job to lay down our own often-painful boundaries and give up things we know we could do well, to protect what we already have! Blessings! S.

  14. I laughed when I read your column in the paper this week, ( and then saw it on my facebook :) ) I have been saying that I need a wife for years now. We recently had our 4th son and I’m home with the kids, I still feel like I could use someone to help out but I feel like once we finally finish our renovations I might actually have time for a real life, and to actually have a real family life, instead of a group of people who live in the same house and frantically try to rush from one place to the next.
    We are now on the same journey as you, trying to find that balance! I finally feel like we have a little time to breathe and actually look for it. :) Praying that you can find yours soon, it’s no fun feeling like life is going at a frantic pace.

  15. I’ve been reading a blog series called Motherhood Around the World. Interestingly, many, many other cultures do not expect a woman to care for the kids and maintain a household alone. They either have family living in the same house or they have a nanny. I think they have it right! It’s too big of a job for one person!

  16. Sorry. Here is a link to the blognto which I was referring. It documents motherhood in several countries.
    http://joannagoddard.blogspot.com/search/label/motherhood%20around%20the%20world?m=1

  17. I know I’m just one of many women who read your blog daily — it enriches my life and I know it does the same for others, too. That being said, we will all understand if you take a break! I am amazed that you produce such meaningful articles day after day. Just a thought, but if you switched to every-other-day articles, we would understand! :) Blessings on your retreat.

  18. KellyK(@RNCCRN9706) says:

    I know you read Courtney’s blog over at WomenLivingWell.org and right now, she’s on a two week break for the Thanksgiving Holiday to resume Dec 2nd. Nothing wrong with taking a break from blogging every now and again. Or as a few people mentioned cutting back to posting a few times a week. Courtney cut back from posting 5 days a week to 3 days a week.

    I work full-time too. Four days a week. My son is 9. My husband also works full time and in about 3 weeks is facing yet another lay-off. This will be his 5th lay-off in our almost 15 year marriage. I’d love NOTHING more than to be able to quit working and be a SAHM. My job makes me very cranky due to the high stress I am under when I’m there. I DREAD having to go there because I’m not appreciated for my contributions by management. Most of my coworkers are lazy and management does NOTHING to hold them accountable no matter HOW many times I’ve brought their mistakes to their attention. NOTHING changes!! I’ve been with this organization for almost 8 years and it only continues to get worse! NO one to hold anyone accountable.

    I interviewed for a new position that’s closer to home last week and I hope and pray that I get it because it’s past time for me to get a new job. Either that or with my husbands lay-off…that he could get another job within the larger parent organization at a different plant somewhere else in the US which would require us to move. A fresh start would be just what we need.

  19. Kristi Winings says:

    I see error in this quote from the article “Certainly we could all lower our expectations and work less. The reduction in stress is likely worth the reduction in income” Removing an income and staying home does not remove stress. In fact figuring out some creative recipe to use what is in the cabinets for a meal because some unexpected expense took up your grocery money can be INCREDIBLY stressful. Having to readjust to driving to the store a few times a month, instead of a few times a week, and having to say no to all the social events and extracurriculars is at first painful. The flipside is that you are not continually gone from home. You have the buffer. You are not continually pumping money into the gas tank or into those extra curriculars because there is not as much money to just give out like that. This means you need to sit and think and pray very hard to determine which ONE activity is the most beneficial right now, in the future and to the long term character development of each child. Simplifying is not easy, but the margin created is SO WORTH IT!

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