Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
"Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all."
Proverbs 31: 28-29
Picture for a moment Aunt Bea from the Andy Griffith Show: motherly, caring, nurturing, always taking care of others, never selfish, but fiesty enough when necessary! This was my mother-in-law. She was one of the most amazing women I've ever known, and I miss her terribly even though it's been over ten years since we lost her to cancer. Sadly, the deep appreciation I have for her wasn't fully realized until many years after her death. She was 38 when my husband was born, and although she had previously worked outside the home, she then took on the role of stay-at-home mom and full-time housewife, a position she proudly maintained for the remainder of her life.
When I first married David, I was in graduate school and just completing my first year of teaching. I had big career plans and no intentions of ever sitting around the house all day. (Stay-at-home moms, don't throw anything at me yet! That was simply my perception at the age of 22!!! I, too, spent several years at home when my kids were little. I know how much work it is!) At that point in time, I was the least "domestic" woman on the face of the Earth. I didn't know how to cook or clean or do anything that an "old-fashioned" housewife should do. That was partially my fault: In 8th grade, I petitioned the junior high school administration so that girls wouldn't have to take home ec! It was also partially my mom's fault: She did absolutely EVERYTHING for us! She had good intentions, but I was actually handicapped by the lack of independence.
Back to my mother-in-law...she loved me dearly. I have no doubt about that. But (and let me preface this statement by saying that she NEVER made me feel this way; it was all in my head) I never felt like I would be good enough for David because I wasn't her. I didn't know how to "take care of him" the way she always had. Again, let me paint a picture for you: a spotless house, no piles of dirty laundry, an amazing meal on the table EVERY DAY when my father-in-law walked in the door from work, the list goes on and on. I saw those tasks - the cooking and cleaning - as CHORES, things to be dreaded. I didn't know how to do those things, nor did I care to learn. Now, 15 years later, I know that those things were expressions of her LOVE for her husband and children. She took pleasure in taking care of her boys!
Most important to my mother-in-law, however, was not the house or the meals. Most important was the sense of HOME that she created. It was a place everyone wanted to visit. You were always welcome. There was an overwhelming sense of peace and tranquility the moment you walked in the door. It was something I had never known. I had lived in a tumultuous household, often full of chaos and confusion. My in-laws' home was a sanctuary. Unlike the housework, however, this sanctuary was something that I wanted, something I worked hard to try to create, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing, but always trying.
It's taken nearly 15 years to reach the point where I am today. Where I feel like the effort to create a "home" is really materializing. My kids (even the pre-teen) love being at home and tell me often how they have such a great life! I've even had a change of heart about the cooking and cleaning over the years. I came to the realization that my husband also saw some of those little things as MY expression of love for him and our boys. It was the kind of love he was raised on: selfless, serving, giving LOVE! As I embraced that fact, I began to take pleasure in preparing meals for my family. No, I still don't like the dirty laundry or the stinky toilets, but I have a better attitude about doing those things for my family when I remember that I do those things out of LOVE.
Last week, I received the ultimate complement from my husband. "My mama would be proud of you," he said gently. No words could have meant more.