"If mothers could learn to do for themselves what they do for their children...we should have happier households. Let the mother go out to play!"
— Charlotte Mason
There is a movement growing ever stronger among Christian stay-at-home wives and mothers that seems to tout Betty Friedan's greatest nightmare as a banner of honor: They hold that the wife and mother ought to have no real interests or pursuits apart from husband, hearth, and homeschool. In fact, to talk of a much-needed weekend away or yearn for an afternoon off with the girls is tantamount to dereliction of duty.
Of course, the issue at the root of this movement is not aversion to pedicures or days at the beach. The issue is entitlement.
It is true that the Feminist movement has engendered a great sense of entitlement in today's wives and mothers. We are told that we have the right to a career and a family. We are told that we have a right to expect to succeed admirably at both, while still having time and energy to exercise regularly, go shopping with our girlfriends, and spend quality alone time with our husbands. Rights aside, it is foolish to assume that we can have our cake and eat it, too. Entitlement, in the end, leads only to frustration. It increases desire while alternately diminishing pleasure. It is a vicious cycle.
However, I believe that there is a middle ground between complete self-denial and excessive self-indulgence. We may be called to take up our crosses each day, but we are not called to be perpetual martyrs to every desire and pleasure. If God had not intended us to enjoy this life of ours, it would not be much of a sacrifice for us to lay it down for Him. The great test is to enjoy the gift while ever being ready to relinquish it if called upon, but not peremptorally.
So, how do we balance our own desires for fun and leisure with our very real and noble calling to serve our families in the homes God has blessed us with?
First, we must glean as much enjoyment as we can from our everyday activities. If housework, childcare, and meal preparation feel like chores, then you're doing things wrong. Pray for vision. Look at things with new eyes. Take a day off, if need be to gain perspective, and then return with an attitude of fun, adventure, and gratitude.
Secondly, we must thoughtfully and prayerfully consider outside pursuits, apart from our husbands, children, and homes. I am not trying to say that you need to get away from your spouse, kids, or house on a regular and lengthy basis in order to be a complete person. I am a stay-at-home mother and wife, and I find this life very fulfilling. It is where God has called me, and I find my greatest contentment and satisfaction in being what and where He has ordained. Nonetheless, there are many things and people that I love which are not contained within the four walls of my home. It is worthwhile to invest in these, as well, even if not as much or as often as I once did while single and childless. I have to be more selective in my choices now. I have found this to be a good thing. It takes a little more work, but it is worth it. Remember, choose thoughtfully, prayerfully, wisely, and with the loving support of your husband. Don't rush full steam ahead expecting to be able to have bi-monthly spiritual retreats and weekly manicures. Although, if you get to, my hat is off to your support network! Remember, it's not about entitlement, it's about balance and perspective and serving God by being true to ourselves as He created us.
Thirdly, we must do as Charlotte Mason said: "go out to play!" I believe she meant this literally. Go out. Outside. Get out of the house, with kids and hubby may be even better, but go out! Cabin fever is a sure recipe for a dreary, quarrelsome home. If you don't have a yard, go to a park. If you don't have a park, go to the museum. If you can't afford a trip to the museum, go to the library. You get the idea. Even a weekly grocery shopping trip can be a pick-me-up for everyone if you've been cooped up too much. Don't think that in order to serve your household you have to be in your home all the time.
Finally, to take Miss Mason at her word again, "...play!" There is nothing more charming to a husband, more endearing to a child, more welcoming to a guest than a spirit of play. Cultivate it, to the glory of God. Your home will be happier and healthier for it.