When you point out the life-affirming potential of housework to certain second-wave feminists like Betty Friedan, the standard retort is, “If it’s so fulfilling, why don’t men do it?”
This attitude ignores the ways in which homemaking draws on the distinctive strengths of women. There is considerable evidence that women’s talents tend to be more well-rounded than those of men. For instance, women perform better on the ACT, which tests four areas of knowledge, than on the SAT, which tests only two. Women are less likely to exhibit autism spectrum disorders, which are often associated with focused–some would say obsessive–interest on a specialized topic. They also tend to be better at multitasking.
But the world rarely rewards balance. PhDs are awarded to those who mastered a particular question through a 300-page dissertation. Partnerships at top law firms go to associates who spent years clocking 80-hour workweeks. Political offices are won by tireless campaigning.
In contrast, the home is an oasis of balance and peace. Just think of the wide variety of skills exercised in home life. Today’s housewife, in addition to cooking and cleaning, homeschools her children, often from kindergarten through high school; raises chickens in the backyard; writes a blog about Catholic social doctrine; sells homemade nun dolls on Etsy.
The woman described in Proverbs 31 has a noble character and fears the Lord, which are (rightly) the traits that have won her so much admiration throughout the centuries. Less noticed, however, are her multiple roles as seamstress, merchant, educator, wife, mother, and servant of the poor. Perhaps in this passage, God is telling us once again that “whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25). If you serve your family and God, you can make better use of your talents, and find greater fulfillment, than if that had been your sole goal.