Modern Parenthood and the Myth of the Proverbs 31 Woman

[I have a post at Think Christian on how today’s working moms can emulate the Proverbs 31 Woman. My conclusion may not be what you are expecting.]

Work and parenthood are the subjects of an NPR report on a recent survey that:

… finds fathers spend three times as many hours a week on child care, and twice as much on housework, as they did in the 1960s. Sounds like a major shift, although — amazingly — the report notes that today’s moms actually spend more time on child care than their own mothers did in the ’60s, and it’s still double what fathers spend.

The report says the survey found that now an equal percentage (48%) of fathers and mothers state a desire to …

[Click here to read the rest at TC. You can register there to leave a message, or return here and leave one without registering at all!]

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13 Responses to Modern Parenthood and the Myth of the Proverbs 31 Woman

  1. Jeannie says:

    You may just have removed a few thousand years’ worth of guilt from women’s shoulders, Tim! Thanks for this very helpful interpretation.

    If I might, I just wanted to share a personal story about Proverbs 31. Two years ago my dear aunt, after whom I’m named, died 4 months after developing cancer. My brother and I drove from Ontario to PEI for the funeral, arriving at my parents’ house the night before. I was told that my cousins wanted me to read Scripture at the funeral, and my aunt had written “Prov. 19” on a piece of paper. But the chapter as a whole seemed like a very strange one for her to have chosen, with its comments about “fools whose lips are perverse,” false witnesses, shunning relatives, shiftless men … and my aunt was NOT the type to use a funeral to take a blast at enemies (as if she had any!). We just couldn’t imagine this chapter in general as something she would have found comfort in. The next day we talked it over with my cousin and the minister the next day, and decided to choose another passage: Prov. 31. And as I read that in the service I realized how it actually DID apply to my aunt Jean in so many ways: her resourcefulness, hard work, kindness, etc. — and I imagined her now in heaven, receiving “the reward she had earned” (v. 31). (And the minister, with a great deal of grace and tact, included some verses from Prov. 19 in his sermon, saying honestly that he was unsure what my aunt had in mind with the chapter but that “perhaps she was thinking about how ‘the fear of the Lord leads to life’ (v. 24)” etc.) I will never read or hear about Prov. 31 again without thinking of my aunt and smiling over the Prov. 19 mystery. Some day I’ll see her and I can imagine her saying, “Oh, my goodness, I meant THIS chapter instead!” and we’ll have a good laugh.

  2. Adriana says:

    To me Proverbs 31 is synonymous with “Mother’s Day Sermon.”
    I confess, I’ve listened to a few such sermons “with glazed eyes and weary indifference,” as Hester Prynne listened to the sermon she had to endue while standing on a scaffold.

    • Tim says:

      Like much of Scripture, that passage has been abused and many listeners have been abused in the process. When I hear a passage that I think is being misinterpreted or misapplied I try to listen carefully anyway, hoping in prayer for the Spirit to reveal God’s truth to me in the word. Sometimes, though, I just go with the glazed eyes and weary indifference myself, Adriana!

      • Adriana says:

        “I try to listen carefully anyway, hoping in prayer for the Spirit to reveal God’s truth to me in the word.” That makes me think of something I read once about Corrie Ten Boom. She always took sermon notes during her travels. It did not matter to her how little experience a preacher had or how off track he might have been. She took notes in a prayerful spirit, just like you said. Such a great example for me when my faith is small.

        I’m thinking of one Mother’s Day in particular when I was pregnant with # 3. My husband left early to teach a class; I drove separately with my oldest two kids. They made a big mess at the last second, we were late, my feet were swollen, I was sleep deprived, etc. Then the minister said, “Please turn in your Bibles to Proverbs 31.”

        • Tim says:

          Wow. I’d’ve curled up in a little ball and whimpered for the remainder of the service. Just a little coping mechanism I’ve developed over the years.

  3. YES! YES! YES! AMEN!!!

    Sorry to yell, but your excellent post got me all riled up! Not long ago, I attended a meeting at church to discuss women’s ministry. The facilitator began the meeting by asking us to go through Proverbs 31, and listing all the things we women were supposed to do and be, and note where we were falling short so the church could (basically) help us improve ourselves.

    So much wrong with this exercise, including Misinterpretation 101, a works orientation, and a shame pile-on.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for your wise words!

    • Tim says:

      “and note where you were falling short”

      Ha, if they asked me to do that I’d still be writing my list when the meeting was over!

  4. Living to an ‘ideal’ is dangerous. I love that we can have insight in the ‘wise view’ of parenting, motherhood (or fatherhood) or spousal support. But to live up to what I ‘should’ be is a dangerous self-defeating standard. And very ‘binding’ in a faith that sets us free. Thanks for healthy perspective and sound theology, Tim.

  5. I think there’s more to the Proverbs 31 woman than people initially realize when just reading the passage. I’ve incidentally been reading a new book by Dr. Tony Evans and his daughter, Chrystal Evans Hurst called “Kingdom Woman” that has given me new insights. Right off the bat they talk about the Proverbs 31 woman being the hallmark of kingdom women, “But the Proverbs 31 woman is not the model of a perfect woman. Neither is a kingdom woman called to perfection. Women, you can be a Proverbs 31 woman and more – but that doesn’t mean you do it all at the same time.” They talk about life flowing through seasons and about getting help, not trying to do it
all. It’s really eye-opening. If you’re interested in Dr. Evan’s book, they have information and even free devotional downloads at kingdomwomanbook.com. I hope it blesses you as it has blessed me.

    • Tim says:

      Heather, that is such a good point about not doing it all at the same time. The wisdom personified in the Proverbs 31 Woman is a model we can apply in various stages of our lives. It’s certainly not a model for us to adopt all at once. That would be exhausting for anyone, woman or man!

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