Many husbands bristle at these words, but a good husband will help lift his wife’s daily burdens. Men often say, “Housework is woman’s work!”
But who made that rule? Such egocentric statements have no place in a Christian home. Everyone knows daily chores are often boring and time consuming. While neither men or women enjoy them, someone has to do the work. One newlywed Menominee told me, “My husband throws dirty four-letter words at me: Wash! Iron! Cook! But after an exhausting day with housework and kids, I don’t feel much like doing another four-letter word: Kiss!”
Empathy and kindness are virtues prized throughout our First Nations. However, these characteristics are only empty words if one does not physically assist another who is burdened. James addresses those who show their true relationship to God by what they do, not by what they say (James 2:17).
In traditional matriarchal systems, many tasks fall to the men, while in patriarchal systems women often carry much of the workload. But the new century has brought new challenges to Native homes. Urbanization has caused us to view issues like employment, transportation, and childcare differently than in the world our elders knew. A man should make a list of the tasks his wife performs every day. Imagine how blessed she would be to have her husband take time to help her. Mom is radically blessed when her children pitch in as well.
My grandpa wanted a big family without concern for the burden grandma would carry. I’m sorry to say he never helped her around the house, for he felt housework was beneath him. But as a diligent Cherokee, grandma shouldered her tasks without complaint and died giving birth to her sixth child at age thirty. Husbands must realize that many hard working wives become stressed and even die prematurely as the compound pressures of life increase. Self-absorbed husbands are never remembered as great men, even if they are relatives.
However, your marriage can be different! God has provided a helping hand for every wife. It is found at the end of the husband’s arm. Jesus said those who are truly great will be great servants (Mark 9:35). The Sermon on the Mount is filled with exhortations to focus on others rather than ourselves (Matt. 5-7). Paul instructs each husband and wife to be mutually submissive to one another (Eph. 5:21). Peter urges men to honor their wives (I Peter 3:7). One way to honor them is to roll up our sleeves and become proficient in the use of wash rags and dust rags. All of us Native husbands should be as familiar with the controls on the washer and dryer as the ones on our TV remote control. Helping around the house conveys a genuine love and respect that mere words can never express. Try this at home. Actions help define a good husband…and a real man of God.
Published in Indian Life, Nov./Dec. 2006