Editor’s Note: In light of her big announcement, we are going to spend the week celebrating Erynn Sprouse and everything she has done for Come Fill Your Cup in her time as our editor-in-chief. Over the next two days we will be sharing her most viewed articles, enjoy!
The theme of the month is “If I could go back 20 years…” but if I went back 20 years, I’d have been 12. And there’s really not much to say to a 12 year old like I was, so I’ll fast forward to when I was ready to get married. We were young– I was 18, he was 20– and everyone seemed to have an opinion on whether or not we should be getting married. Since we were getting married with or without their approval, most had some kind of advice for us. Some of the happiest married couples we knew turned out to have also been married young and we treasured their advice. Even with all the counsel and direction we received, there are still a couple of things I would want to tell my younger self. It isn’t P.C. or “enlightened” or modern. I might not have even listened. But if I could go back, here’s a few pointers I’d hand to my 18 year old, bright-faced, lost-in-wedded-bliss self.
House cleaning isn’t just for when company is coming.
The last minute, whirlwind kind of cleaning is really the only kind I was familiar with. Even with just two of us, dishes were piled in the sink, papers littered the floor, clothes were rarely hanging where they ought and general chaos reigned. If I’m honest with myself, I was lazy about the whole thing. More than that, I was disdainful of house keeping. I thought it was beneath me as an intelligent woman of the modern world in a modern marriage. If he wanted the dishes done, he could do them himself. Why should I have to do those things? It’s his house too!
The crux of it is this: Titus 2:3-5 says the older women should encourage the younger to be workers at home. Laying aside debates about whether or not a woman can have a career, one thing it means for sure: we should be workers at home. So who says that the dishes are my job? Why should I be the one to clean up around the house? Here it is… BECAUSE GOD SAID SO. I know… that hurts our modern feelings. Hurt mine too. But it says what it says and I only have two choices: obey or don’t. Can my husband do the laundry sometimes? Sure! But I need to see it as a favor done for me, not as him just doing his part.
I would share this advice with my younger self not only so that I could be in obedience to God sooner, but also for the practical benefits. A clean place is simply more enjoyable than a messy one. There’s pride in accomplishment when you take chaos (which is inevitable) and turn it to order. If the kitchen is clean, a 30-minute-meal can actually be accomplished in 30 minutes (no need to tack on an additional 45 minutes for getting the kitchen into a workable state). Now that we have kids, I can see a big difference in their behavior when the house is orderly vs. when it’s messy (chaos breeds chaos).
It would have been so much easier to put these habits into place before we had five little ones underfoot. If I had basic housekeeping habits in place back then, perhaps now the workload wouldn’t threaten to swallow me whole and I could spend more time enjoying my children. If I could go back, I would tell my younger self that a show home isn’t necessary or even desirable, but an orderly house is a tremendous blessing to everyone.
Take care of him.
I must admit (shamefully) that I have been a scoffer. I have scoffed at the idea of being that kind of wife. You know the kind… she presses her husband’s shirts– 2 or 3 so he has a choice– double checks to make sure all the buttons are still there and his pants are creased just right. She carefully suggests the times for ladies’ gatherings because she needs to get home and fix dinner for her husband. It’s uncommon, but if she must be out at dinner time, she makes his food, covers it with plastic wrap, tops it with a note on how to warm it, and puts it in the fridge for him right next to a fresh batch of sweet tea– cup and a third of sugar, just how he likes it. She fixes her hair and retouches her makeup before he comes in the door.
For a long time, I have rolled my eyes at all these things, dismissing these ladies as simple relics of the past, women who bowed to their society’s non-liberated ideals with little to offer me in my modern marriage. But a recent realization stopped my eye rolling.
Pressing his shirts, checking his buttons and creasing his pants aren’t done because she is a slave to others’ opinions of her husband; she’s pressing love into the shirts and helping him put his best foot forward (Proverbs 31:23). Setting events to revolve away from dinner time isn’t done because he isn’t capable of making his dinner; she’s showing care for him (Philippians 2:3). Food in the fridge with a note isn’t placed there because otherwise he’ll be mad; she’s telling him that even when she isn’t there he is loved and thought of. The sweet tea is made just to his liking because it makes him smile. She fixes herself up before his arrival for the same reason she did when they were dating: she wants him to think she’s beautiful (Proverbs 31:22). It’s all part of an unspoken language. Translated, she’s saying that she respects him (Ephesians 5:33).
If I could go back and give some advice to myself as a newlywed, it would boil down to this: look to the older ladies and do your best to imitate them. They know what they’re doing. It isn’t oppression or misogyny that causes them to do what they do. It’s a combination of obedience to God and wisdom.
Here’s a bit of a disclaimer before I sign off. Dear sister, don’t read between the lines and think I’m trying to send us back to 1950. Turning yourself into a Stepford Wife won’t help. This is a heart matter. If you don’t want to be a servant to your husband and family, the outward show of it won’t do the trick. Marital harmony will never be yours if you iron shirts with a grumble, stuff sandwiches into the fridge muttering under your breath, and sweep with disdain for the chore in your heart. This article is about a change in perspective. Maybe like me, you swallowed a lot of hooey and believed that these “woman’s work” tasks were just tasks. Maybe like me, you’ve believed that a high IQ and years of education puts you above such menial labor. Consider praying about it. Talk to an older lady whose marriage you admire. Watch and observe without judgment. You just might find that a change in perspective would do you good.