In response to the post earlier this week titled "The Relevance of Food," I received this question from a reader. With her permission, I'm addressing her question here because I think she's not alone in wrestling with these topics. Plus, I've been slacking on the Q&A items on the blog and need to make amends!
Q: I have been living in dorms for seven years, so my ability to apply what I know about nutrition has been lacking, to say the least. As I look forward to getting married in the fall and having my own place for the first time, I am most excited about having the ability to shop for and prepare my own food.
My biggest concern is that I won't have time to cook (or exercise) if I take a full-time job away from home and continue to be active in ministry. It used to be normal for women to quit their jobs when they got married to take care of the home and, eventually, children. As I have run the idea by my friends and family of having a part-time job to allow me to have more time to care for a home, I have received very negative feedback. People have cited money, career, and potential for laziness as reasons to get a full-time job.
Is it reasonable to think that homemaking, even without children, could be the equivalent of a part-time job?
A: Short answer? Yes, without a doubt.
But I think there's much more to consider in your situation than just the question you asked. The first thing that struck me was that you reference getting married in the fall and that you are seeking the counsel of friends and family--but you haven't specifically cited your future husband's opinion. As you two prepare to marry, I hope these plans are the things you are discussing and evaluating together. In fact, as you ponder this decision, you have an opportunity to help him in his new role as a husband. Because the Bible gives him the responsibility to lead and provide for his family, you can signal your willingness to encourage him in this role by taking this matter to him first. What is his opinion here? What are his priorities for your family? Your guidance and input are invaluable in your marriage, and he needs your counsel as he leads, so this needs to be a decision you make jointly as a couple.
Second, it's quite possible to work full-time, serve in your local church, get exercise, and cook. Many of us do it all the time. However, I think you are wise to consider the importance of what I call the "private sphere" as you get married. You and your husband won't be college roommates, living parallel lives that rarely intersect except at the bathroom door. You will be building a life together, which requires spending time with each other. You can spend all that time together running errands, mowing the lawn, paying bills, and cleaning the house, or you can decide how your "team" is going to share the many responsibilities of adult life so that you aren't being driven by your To Do list. The benefit of having one person with more time dedicated to these "private sphere" tasks is that you have more quality time together as a couple to enjoy each other and to minister elsewhere. Given all the administrative tasks of running a home--house maintenance, shopping, making medical appointments, tracking a budget, paying bills and taxes, cleaning, yard work, and more--it's clear this is at least a part-time job already, even without children!
Yet, you've just spent seven years in college, so I assume you have sunk some money in an advanced degree and you may have college loans to pay off. Your joint finances are another reason why your future husband needs to be involved in making this decision. He may prefer that you get a solid base of experience in your career so that you could pursue the option of working part-time in your field in the future or, assuming you take time off with your children, that you could return to it one day. He could also see the advantage of you working full-time now to pay down school loans before children add to the family's finances. Or he may want to minimize everyone's stress levels by not having two people in demanding, full-time jobs. Again, it's a decision that you make as a couple.
Finally, I want to examine the reasons your friends and family think you should not work part-time. You said they listed money, career, and potential for laziness as reasons to get a full-time job. But the values you listed were excitement about having your own home, a desire to cook nutritiously, a concern about lack of exercise, and the goal of being active in ministry. There's not much overlap here.
Now money is important, but we honestly don't need as much of it as our culture dictates. There are ways to live more frugally and happily on just one income. I live in one of the most expensive areas in the world, but I know hundreds of families who survive on one income. Is it easy? No, but it's done every day. As to career, I don't know what you studied but it would be wise to do some informational interviews in your field to find out how you can navigate different seasons of life while staying active at some level in your profession. You need credible information about trends in your profession to make a wise decision. With regard to laziness, that is a heart issue. You can be employed full-time and still be lazy. Or you can work at home and be incredibly productive. The setting is not what determines your character. If your friends and family observe a pattern of laziness in your life, then tackle that topic as a matter of growing in godliness. But ask any homemaker if there's time to slack off, and you'll probably get a huge guffaw.
My opinion? As I said, I don't know all of your details, but if I were given the opportunity as a new bride to work part-time, I would take it. Marriage is a huge adjustment, as is the transition from college to career. To do both at the same time can be disorienting. But your marriage should trump your career. If God blesses you both with long lives, you'll be married far many more years than you will work. Plus, your marriage is supposed to point beyond you to the mystery of Christ and his church (Ephesians 5:31-32). Your job is not seen in the same light in Scripture. You would be truly living counter-culturally if you put your best efforts into your marriage over your career.
Most importantly, Scripture calls you as a married woman to a few specific things and I would make those a priority in order to honor God: learning to love and follow your husband; learning to love your children; managing your home well; and growing in kindness, self-control, and purity (Titus 2:3-5).