Mean and Messy

Caryn: Okay. So in the event any of you doubt the necessity of the Mommy Revolution—or in case any of you think Carla and I make up the stuff that has spurred us to action here (though, come to think of it: have we talked much about our “stuff” here…?)—I wanted to share with you all a few choice comments recently posted at Home of a lovely magazine that—above all else, really—knows how to pick mom columists (wouldn’t you agree, Carla?).

But anyway, the comments I read were on an article called “Domestically Challenged,” which is a roundtable discussion between four wonderful and beautiful and talented and loving, godly women who just so happen to be—as the title implies—maybe not so great at keeping a perfect home.

Two of those messy women also  just so happen to be me and Carla. Along with our new friend Tricia Goyer and our old friend Ginger Kolbaba we talk about meeting expectations, following God’s calling, wondering if a messy house equals a messy soul, and all sorts of good stuff.  Essentially, each of us comes clean about being messy. We each try to talk about this in as transparent, honest, humble, and vulnerable–not to mention funny–ways as we can.

So naturally—in the long, sad tradition of Christians everywhere—being that we were transparent, honest, humble, and vulnerable, we got roundly criticized and attacked by our brothers and sisters. Aaaah, the body of Christ.

I gotta say, it actually all started out amusing as I read comment after comment from women who found us whiney or from those who said they worked full-time and had no problem keeping their homes spic and span, yada, yada. Whatever.

But then it just kept getting worse: meaner, harsher, more ridiculous and offensive.  To tell you the truth, I still don’t know whether I want to hug these misguided women and quietly read them the story of Mary and Martha and my Jesus, maybe gently look at the Proverbs 31 Woman together, lovingly discuss the notions of Freedom in Christ, of Grace and Truth. OR, if I want to grab these women, shake them, and yell the stories of Mary, Martha, and my Jesus and scream-read poem-y proverb into their faces (though this is rarely an effective technique, I realize).

I don’t know whether to be sad or angry or both. Maybe you can help. Here are a few samples:

This article was pretty disappointing for a group of christian women. What happened to our priorities as outlined in the bible? It sounded like such a bunch of griping. Stop doing so many other activities and take care of you homes. It does not have to be spotless 24/7, and there will be seasons of life when it is messier than you would like (caring for several small children or an aging parent), however, those are the exception, not the rule. I am doing a study of the Proverbs 31 women this year and was so excited when the magazine arrived, but amazed these were christian women who had given up on the 1st mission field, their homes.

Two adults in a house should be able to maintain some level of organization and cleanliness. And paying for someone else to clean your house? Seriously, you are out making money so you can pay someone else to look after your own nest. I fail to see the advantage or where the household is getting ahead. The only thing they are getting more of is stress. Raising our own children is a Biblical commandment, even if cleanliness isn’t.

It is my God-given duty to care for my family and my home, and I want to fulfill my job to the best of my ability. … How could I effectively homeschool if my house is trashed? How am I showing that I am caring and responsible to my family? … These women in the article need to look at the duties of their families first and stop the excuses!!

I was surprised at the rate of excuses coming from these women you picked regarding this topic. Not one of them is a FULL-TIME, stay-at-home Mom. What type of example are we setting for the next generation of Mothers and Fathers? We have an example to set and that is the ONLY thing that carries on from one generation to the next. If domestically challenged is the issue from women you interviewed that have competion coming from numerous directions, then of course they are challenged. I am a DAUGHTER of God FIRST, a WIFE SECOND, a MOTHER THIRD…….everything else can wait for the next season in life. The family organization is dependent on the Mother. It is TIME FOR THE MOTHER TO STEP BACK INTO THE JOB GOD ENTITLED HER TO BECOME and be the foundation of the family. I do believe that if your home is a mess….you are too. Going in too many directions is unhealthy for everyone. Superwoman mentality is rampant in this Country and our children are suffering for it.

I can’t believe this article! Did not God say in His word that we should be “keepers at home”? Please stop making excuses and keep your houses clean! If you have to do it or pay someone else to do it, just do it! It is horrible to go to a Christian person’s house and and see a mess. We have to be good examples in every area of our lives.

Okay. So, rereading these has made me need to do my deep breathing again. And I’m trying to smile at the suggestions that “not one”‘ of us is a “full time mom,” since actually the only one of us who isn’t doesn’t have children. I’m trying to be amused that these commenters imagine that someone else is raising our children. I’m trying to be gracious even when our commitment to God and family is questioned.

I have to tell you: this fires me up. Not that these commenters have such ill-informed and ridiculous impressions of our lives—not even because they make harsh (not to mention unbiblical) judgements, but that this thinking still lives so readily on. That they perpetuate the heresy that to follow God as a woman means to live (or pretend to) the Better Homes and Gardens (another lovely magazine—though they could use some good mom columnists!), pretty perfect little American life.

But more than fires me up, this breaks my heart. I think it probably breaks God’s heart too. So what sort of example are we setting for future generations, Miss Carla? That actually does make me smile…..

Carla: What’s amusing to me about these comments is that several of them seem to think we all live in garbage houses, as though there are only two extremes–the Pottery Barn showcase and those sad news articles about the women with 138 cats who live in filth.

But I’m with you–we couldn’t make this stuff up if we tried. I just want to write back to every one of those women and ask them if they talk to/about their friends like this? It’s no wonder so many of us struggle to be vulnerable with each other when this is what we are bumping into.

At the same time, I think about the reactions to one of my favorite books, 10 Lies the Church Tells Women. The author said that the people who the strongest negative reactions to what he wrote were older women. He came to see that they pushed back vehemently because to agree with him was to admit that they had arranged their lives around these lies and they couldn’t or didn’t want to deal with the emotional fallout that would come with that admission. The only other option was to dig in and fight him.

For whatever reasons, the things we are saying are threatening to some women. It’s fine with me if others disagree with me–Caryn does it ALL THE FREAKIN’ TIME. But it takes a deeper motivation to write up a harsh comment like these. It takes anger or fear or sense that something sacred has been violated.

My hope is that we can create a better way of disagreeing with each other, one that isn’t based in fear or anger, but in a genuine desire to learn from and understand each other.

Caryn: Thank you, Carla, for coming to this from a such a healthy perspective. As opposed to me—all rage and wrath….. Maybe it’s because my house was (and still is) actually QUITE TIDY as I read these. At least for me.

Please do check out the article, Revolutionaries—after you comment here. There’s also a fun video you can watch of us non-garbage-house-dwellers. Carla hogs the spotlight though. Surprise, surprise…..


65 responses to this post.

  1. well, as i sit here typing, while kids are asking me for stuff and i’m ignoring them, and my dining table is piled high with crap (to my credit i did vacuum and mop yesterday, but you wouldn’t be able to tell if you came over right now…), i think you really nailed it when you said (or quoted from your favorite book?) that some women’s lives are truly threatened by these kinds of thoughts, so they lash out.

    i recently got back into touch with an old high school friend, and when i visited her blog for the first time, i had to debrief with my husband. i felt judgmental AND baffled all at the same time. her little “about me” section describes herself as “keeper of the home, helpmeet,” etc. which i didn’t even understand the word “helpmeet” at first…guess that makes me not one. 😉

    anyway, since being reconnected with her i realize that this comes out of who she is, so i don’t think she would be a woman who would criticize. she reads my blog, she encourages me, she accepts me how i am. but there are a ton of other women out there who revel in their role in the home and would not know how to define themselves if these barriers came down.

    i was also talking to my husband the other day about how we (humans) are constantly striving to figure out some way to elevate ourselves above other people. well, you know, i can make a rug from sheets and a crochet hook, so there. oh, and i know how to use my crock pot.

    so i think that this is just one more example of people thinking “well i am WAY better than these women; for goodness sake, i can keep my house clean AND homeschool.” but can they crochet a rug, i ask? ok, maybe they can. you get the point…


  2. Posted by Angela on March 23, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    Thanks for your honesty about housework and all the baggage that comes with it.
    I’m sorry you are getting such grief for this. Call me naive, but I still am shocked when Christians (especially Christian women) continue judge each other so harshly.


  3. Posted by Karin H on March 23, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    Hi Caryn & Carla,

    This type of pettiness drives me absolutley NUTS! When are “Christian” women (and men) going to learn that what works for them in life isn’t necessarily going to work for everyone else. Because one person is a stay-at-home-mom doesn’t make them better (or worse) than a mom who works outside of the home.

    We need to start appreciating what diversity brings to the table. I personally hate cleaning. Does that make me a bad person? No, it makes me a person who knows that is realistic enough to know that I am happier (and in turn, my family) by not having to do the “heavy cleaning”. Does that mean I never do any cleaning? Of course not, but it does free me up to do do other things other than clean my toilets. Like watch my kids participate in sports, attend a bible study, or take a walk with my husband.

    Does this mean I will always have someone else do the “heavy cleaning”? No, probably not, but during this time in my life when my kids are involved in a lot and because they will only be here for another 3 years before going off to college, I choose to spend the time with them instead of doing the cleaning.

    I know it is difficult not to take things personally, but as long as how your home works works for your family and everyone is in agreement on roles and expectations, it really isn’t anyone else’s business to criticize. I know that it easy for me to say this, I wasn’t part of the article, but I find it interesting that others think because you were, they can personally attack you. In this day and age, there are many way’s to disagree with out attacking. It is amazing that the ability to hide behind your computer screen makes people forget how to talk to each other with respect.

    I will now get off my soapbox. Have a great day!


  4. Posted by C on March 23, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    It seems to me that these women go to great lengths to see that the ‘outside of the cup is clean but the inside is where the filth is’ so to speak. Imagine the rath if they found out that they may not be comanded by God to home school 13 children in a spotless house? What a brood of vipers. It’s people like you two who make it possible for me to still call myself a Christian. Keep up the good, messy, whiny, cluttered, lovely work!


  5. Posted by Robyn on March 23, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    You know, I’m really not that surprised. It’s one of the reasons I don’t really like Christians, sometimes. Do you think that some of those women are threatened by a woman who makes choices in life that are different from hers and still is a successful wife and mother, has great kids, and is blessed by God? In some way, she feels like it invalidates her own choice not to work outside the home? Which is, by the way, a perfectly legitimate and honorable choice and calling.

    I think these kinds of comments come from a deep-seated insecurity, not righteous indignation.

    The Proverbs 31 woman? She WORKED outside her home! She bought and sold property. She made garments and sold them in the marketplace. She rose before dawn to provide for her household, as well. Do you think that she was sitting around playing tiddlywinks with her kids all day long and maintaining a perfect-looking home? Um, no. SHE HAD SERVANTS! Who probably cleaned her house for her! LOL!

    Me? I have no illusions about my home being orderly and beautiful. I really don’t have either the Martha Stewart gene nor the organization gene. I “hire” my mom to help me organize and my sister to help me decorate, and my home is still far from magazine-worthy. Which is fine. A sparkling home is FAR from a God-given assignment in my life.

    I work full time. I’m also a full time mom. I don’t cease to be a mother when I am teaching my students. Is there really any such thing as a part-time mom? Does anyone know a mother who defines herself thus? I think we are all conscious of our parenting responsibilities 24/7, and I choose to give other parents the benefit of the doubt that they put the well-being of their children first. I know my husband and I do. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, if we felt for one minute that God was asking us to quit one of our jobs because our careers somehow caused harm to our daughter, we would do it faster than you can say “Mommy Wars.”

    Plus, where are the men in all this? Don’t they live here too? Shouldn’t they do chores? And the kids? What good are dwarves if they don’t do chores?


  6. Posted by Steve B. on March 23, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    Greetings ladies,

    Let me start off by sharing that if I have one fault (although I have many) it is not worrying about what others think. I have never uttered the phrase – or thought – “what will others think”. My wife wishes I would, but she stays with me anyway. The saying “cleanliness is next to Godliness” is not found anywhere in the Bible (and that’s “Bible” with a capital B, commenter Chris). So if there is any way for a Dude to totally validate what Godly mothers like yourselves do every day for the sake of the call, consider it done.


  7. That was more than a little painful to read.

    The judgement and … gracelessness … (is that the word I’m looking for?) in “that type of mentality” is scary and disturbing.

    It does make me thankful for my husband and my kids, who value their relationship w me as their wife/mom, and the great team that we make.


  8. Posted by Robyn on March 23, 2009 at 7:35 pm

    Something is bugging me. And I think I know what it is now.

    Caryn and Carla, I know that both of you want to affirm all mothers (and fathers!) in this journey we call parenthood. Let me preface my comment with that.

    But, Caryn, when you respond to the criticism by saying, Wait! We ARE “full time” moms, and the only one who isn’t doesn’t have children–it seems like you are saying this: We are “full-time” moms because we do our work at home. Not like those other NON-full-time moms who don’t work from home. So, judge us for not having spic-n-span homes, but at least you can’t get us on “not raising our children!”

    And, at the risk of sounding brusque, who cares? Does the fact that you do your work at home make you better than those of us who don’t? I really don’t think that you think it does. But it comes off that way.–We may be working moms, but at least we’re work AT HOME moms!–It’s just another distinction and category that I find to be false, that women use to make themselves feel BETTER THAN other mothers. I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt that that isn’t what you are doing. But it sure sounds like it.

    I will readily admit that this is one of my sensitive spots. I raise my own child. I defy anyone who says I don’t. It makes me so mad I could spit when women spout off about “someone else raising your children.” And being a “full time” mom. Reeks of more judgement regarding working moms. Like me. And only someone who doesn’t know me could EVER say that I pawn my child off on other people to raise so that I don’t have to be a FULL TIME mom.


  9. Posted by Cindy Cronk on March 23, 2009 at 9:06 pm


    Why are we so busy minding everyone else’s business. Is the God that speaks to me not able to speak to others? Am I the only one who can hear God’s voice??

    The arrogance of anyone to judge the life choices of a brother or sister–choices that are not sin!

    Why do neat-freaks think they have the corner on Godliness? Homeschoolers think that public school moms love their children less? Married women feel superior to single women? Stay-at-home-moms look down at working moms?

    And how blessed are we to have these options?! We bicker and tear each other apart over such silly, silly things. Most moms in the world are trying to keep their children fed and a roof over their heads.

    Putting the high horse back in the stable now.


  10. Hey Robyn:

    Yeah. No. I’m with you. I realize now how my comments may have come across. I was writing so wrapped up in my own sensitivities that I wasn’t taking proper time or care to be clear (honestly, you should have seen my first post. Carla made me simmer it down. I was REALLY ANGRY! LOTS OF CAPS).

    And I even hate all these categories (hello, just wrote a book on this…) I just used. So I should’ve been more careful. I was knee-jerking and I think probably kicked some dirt on the “working moms” who were innocent bystanders in all this.

    I was reacting against a group of women who contend that because I am “at home” I should be totally devoted and dedicating my time to said home. To keeping it perfect—and not bothering with any other silly little gifts or passions or callings while at home.

    Of course, I TOTALLY agree that all moms who love their kids and do the best they can are full-time moms. I don’t think there are better “classes” of moms than others. We all do what we gotta do. No shame in that!

    And I don’t believe relying on childcare is “pawning” off your kids to be raised by someone else. My gosh. If that were true, I’d have to admit SpongeBob raised my kids!

    I am sorry.


  11. Posted by Daisy on March 23, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    Why do women feel it is necessary to cut other women down in order to elevate their lifestyle and the choices that they have made?

    “My God-given duty is to my home.” I’ll make it as clean as I can and then I’ll feel superior…or perhaps feel that my life has purpose as I work through my daily to-do list ..all of which really impacts no one outside my family.
    I’ll work at convincing myself that it is what God designed my to do….do you really think that is it?

    A clean house is one yard stick by which we measure and compare ourselves with others.. Is my house cleaner? Am I the thinnest one in the room? Is my nose the smallest? My boobs the biggest?

    Let’s move away from the artificial criteria.


  12. Thank you ladies for such honesty and realness. Why is it that we, as Christian women, are so hard on each other? Why do we lack such grace? Isn’t it possible that the way that one person does things indeed is not the only way to do things? Isn’t is possible that God is speaking to each of us, calling each of us with purpose and priority? I just wonder if we as a body of believers might be able to come to a point to be able to challenge each other without getting nasty about it? We might be able to struggle with Scripture without getting personal. We might be able to contend for the faith without attacking each other. We might be able to accept and love our sisters, even if they don’t do life the same way we do.

    The comments to the article make me sad. If we as a body attack each other so, show so little grace, use such harsh and unloving words, why would others want to join the movement? If there is such bickering and quarreling within the body of Christ, how are we being light to a dark world?

    I could go on and on about this one (I could probably use some deep breathing!), but I just wonder if we would really, as a body, be so bold as to judge each other by such simple, unimportant standards. Isn’t there more to a person’s heart condition than the state of their home. Mercy, I sure to hope so!!


  13. Posted by Kathy on March 23, 2009 at 11:53 pm

    This whole thing makes me so sad/mad/glad/rad to be me and not Martha! (Stewart that is…)

    OK, so here’s my dirty little secret…

    My basement family room ALWAYS smells like dogs and sweaty teenage boys and usually comes accessorized in pop cans, dirty dishes, snack wrappers, pillows, blankets and various clothing articles.

    I keep my living room picked up (not necessarily vacuumed and dusted) that way I have ONE place that visitors can enter and sit in relative comfort. It’s all relative…

    My house is a place to live, not a showcase. I refuse to participate in a competition of best house, best mommy or best example of Proverbs 31! From what I know so far, living is messy. Is it possible that “house perfectionism” tries to deny this fact?

    As a female pastor I’ve always been judged in layers:
    etc., etc.

    Can we really be all things to all people? That seems like God’s job description, not mine!


  14. Posted by Amy on March 24, 2009 at 6:09 am

    I only read the comments here on your site, and have always had a passionate feeling about this. You may be at home, but you work. And unless your children are living in conditions harmful to their health, you do what you feel is important enough in YOUR home. Some woman are better mothers because they also work outside the home. Some are better mothers because they are at home moms. What ever works best for you and your family is what is important! I am a stay at home mom, and my house is not always spotless and clean. I have dishes on the counter I know I need to put in the dishwasher. Clothes that need folding and bathrooms to clean. But my mental and emotional needs are best met when I do these things on my time clock. Not the neighbor who makes sure everything is perfectly tidy before bed so she can start the next day out “right”. That works for her, but not me. We need to respect each other as mothers. We all are doing the best we can in the way we know. I was recently asked what my god given gift was and how I am fulfilling that. My answer? I am not gifted in any one way. I do the best I can to teach my children to live a life according to what God wants us to live. To be servants of Christ, and productive members of the Christian family. Does that mean I am to be as “clean” as martha stewart and witness and preach like beth moore? No. It means to do the best I can with what God has given me. And if someone thinks I am not doing my best because my house is not perfectly clean, and I don’t cook dinner every night for my children, well, God will judge me on that. No one else has a right to! Do I wish I had a pottery barn home and a successful career with straight A students as my children? Sure, who wouldn’t! Who wouldn’t want to be the perfect proverbs 31 woman? Due to the world we live in and my lifes history, I will never be THAT woman. But I am who I am, and someday, I may be able to or “need” to keep a tidier home. But right now, I am happy and so is my family right where we are at. So keep being who you are, the only opinions that matter are yours, your spouses and God’s. And I think they will love you no matter what!


  15. Posted by Amy on March 24, 2009 at 6:12 am

    p.s. when I say I don’t “cook” dinner every night for my children, I meant actually cook. I do feed my children! But sometimes a good old pb&j sandwich is just fine!


  16. just to reiterate, i know it helps me overlook a lot of these judgments from others (and also helps me not be so judgmental) when i realize that it is our natural bent as human beings to elevate ourselves above others. this is why adam and eve ate of the fruit in the garden, this is why slavery was popular for so long, this is why women weren’t allowed to vote forever, this is why those who give birth without epidurals look down on those who use what is medically available to them, this is why women (and men) get plastic surgery, this is why some people work and work and work to buy more and more and more so they can have the biggest house, fanciest car, best-dressed kids.

    i know too many people (i will just call them people who profess to be Christians) who use church and their faith as a way to elevate themselves–“i pray all the time, i have a daily quiet time, i listen to only christian music, i attend church every sunday AND go to wednesday night supper AND go to women’s bible study on thursday mornings.” so then when they read about women, christian women, who are being honest about their struggles, they feel like if they were to go there, to start being honest with themselves and those around them, the whole system they have set up to make themselves feel better, feel like they have “arrived” as believers, as “women of faith,” will come crumbling down around them.
    in my life, i constantly struggle against these things. as soon as i think i have conquered one area (like maybe letting go of wanting the nicest car or biggest house), then suddenly i find myself judging someone else because she doesn’t eat as healthy, buy local produce, use cloth bags when she grocery shops, drives too big of a car, whatever.

    then again, we all fall into this category in one way or another, don’t we? just fill in the blank with “i do _________ better than she does.”

    i think one thing that emerges time and again on this blog (and definitely in my own life) is that we canNOT do life without community. we can’t live in a bubble. we need each other to tell us when we are being nasty, judging, back-biting, gossipy, spending too much at target or nordstrom’s (by the way, i definitely fall into the target category…), dieting too much.

    i crave those relationships in my life–and i think these admonishments and encouragement need to come out of relationships–so that i can stay as real and grounded as possible.


  17. Posted by Robyn on March 24, 2009 at 8:24 am

    Thank you, Caryn, for your gracefulness. I’m glad I said something instead of just being upset. I KNEW you didn’t mean that. But I had to get it off my chest. Thank you, for allowing me to be real. I appreciate you so much, and this forum you and Carla have provided and inspired.


  18. kristi– amen.

    i haven’t read all of the other comments yet or followed all of the linkks. i’m still trying to tell myself that i shouldn’t be shocked, pissed, etc. the mentality of these women is a perfect example of what i have been around several years. i need to do some of caryn’s deep breathing (or have a shot of tequila) before i read all of this.


  19. Posted by Barb on March 24, 2009 at 9:01 am

    I am an “older woman” (although I still wince at that designation) and I want to say to the revolutionary moms–good for you. Your biblical mandate is NOT to have a clean house, or to devote every waking moment to your children. It is to serve Jesus. And, that will be different for each woman, and in each season/circumstance of your life. If you can get someone to clean your house, go ahead and do it. If you want time for yourself, make it happen. Little Johnny and Jane will survive and may even develop the ability to spend a little time without Mommy’s constant interaction with them.

    Don’t let the church smother you with faulty theology that claims to biblically define who you are. If you want to know how Jesus views women read the gospels and pay close attention to how he interacted with women during his ministry. He didn’t send home the women who followed him and supported his ministry (Luke 8:1,2). He didn’t reprimand Mary of Bethany for choosing the “classroom” over the kitchen. He engaged in theological discussions with the Samaritan woman and with Martha.

    I have three amazing women in my life–my son’s wife and my two daughters. Each of them is defining their womanhood and motherhood in ways that reflect how God created them. I thank God they have the opportunity and courage to do this.


  20. Posted by April G. on March 24, 2009 at 11:23 am

    Wow! Does it make sense to say I am surprised and not at the same time? I think it is ultimately the goal of the enemy to get us to fight about anything, no matter how petty, in order to keep us from truly living as the body of Christ. My house is cleaner than yours, therefore I am more godly. Sounds like a fight the disciples had about who should be sitting at the right hand of Jesus. What else will we find to fight about? We’ll add clean houses to the never-ending list of “I’m more spiritual than you.”

    I am all about getting down to the root of things. Why are we fighting about clean houses? Because we think having a clean house is on the list of being good. Why do we need to be good? Well, because we need to be godly. Why do we need to be godly? Isn’t that how we earn God’s favor? What will happen to this world if we aren’t? What will happen to our marriages, our children, our neighborhood if we aren’t perfect? How easy it is to forget that cleaning really isn’t as important as grace. Touting our cleanliness keeps us from getting down on our knees and helping those who need it. We may say we believe we are saved by grace through faith, but we sure don’t live like it most of the time. We live like we’re saved by works and godliness. And the more perfect I can be, the more God loves me. The better I am than you, the more God loves me even more. But that isn’t how Jesus lived. He hung out with the ones society rejects, and I can bet their houses weren’t spotless. I am constantly battling this myself. Why is having a dustless house tied to my self-worth? Because somebody wants me to believe it is, and the more I can be beaten down by those beliefs, the less real good I’ll be doing in the world around me.

    And, Carla, most days the most I’d have to offer a drop-in visitor to my messy abode would be chips and salsa as well. But, my salsa is my specially canned fire-roasted-pepper salsa from my own garden. I’m pretty sure you can’t beat that. Therefore, I am more spiritual than you. Get it together, please.


  21. Posted by Laura on March 24, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    I’m so sorry that so many people feel the need to lash out at others who are trying to be open and honest…it’s very sad when people judge others instead of loving them. I’m personally very thankful that God has gifted women like Caryn & Carla who will be open and can admit that though they try, they fall short…and why wouldn’t they? We are only humans who are doing the best we can do live life as Godly as possible…and working to be as Godly of a mother as possible! I can totally related to these women! God bless you girls!


  22. Posted by Karen Casey Arneson on March 24, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    I read most of these comments yesterday – following Caryn’s post on Facebook. I logged in again today because I’ve continued to think about the issues presented here. I very much appreciate what Shauna and Barb (the “older woman”) had to say.

    I am also an “older woman.” I have labored under all those titles: stay-at-home mom, working-at-home mom, working mom. I’ve also experienced the judgement coming from whichever group I wasn’t currently part of…and I’ve been guilty of judging as well.

    Several thoughts occurred to me. First: man looks on the outside, God looks at the heart. How dare we judge one another without first knowing one another – finding a window into the heart?

    Second: I really related to the anger Caryn felt. I’ve experienced a time in my life (not all that long ago) when I did NOT want to be associated with the title Christian because I was so dismayed by the un-Christlike behavior of too many who call themselves by that name. God dealt with this attitude by reminding me that I am not responsible for other’s behavior. They are his servants and He will judge them. I am only responsible for my responses to others, and my own behaviors. Someday, I will give an account of every word spoken (written?). I must live in a way that glorifies him.

    And finally, my heart sank a little at the heated responses to the original comments. Some suggested that the “full-time moms” were just insecure and felt threatened by working moms. Did anyone wonder if the words of those full-time moms didn’t threaten as well? Could that be the reason for the vehement come-backs?

    Ladies, none of us live a perfect life. We all do the best we know how with the talents God gives us. We will all have regrets along the way. We will all mess up. By God’s grace, we’ll also accomplish some really wonderful things. Can’t we turn our focus on how to love and encourage each other?


  23. Posted by Robyn on March 24, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    I believe that when women (and men) attack each other, it often comes out of insecurity and a sense of feeling threatened. That’s itself is not an attack, it’s an observation. I never made a blanket, general statement regarding anyone being insecure. I made a statement about women who spew the kind of hateful criticism experienced by Caryn and Carla, women who happen to claim to be stay-at-home moms. Big difference. I don’t see how my observations that insecurity is probably behind the kind of hateful remarks received by Caryn and Carla would be construed as a threat to someone else. It’s just a theory, not a personal attack.

    And I actually agree with other commenters who have said that women who have built their entire identity around being housekeepers may feel insecure and threatened by other women saying that they don’t see that as an integral part of womanhood. After all, if women have been taught that they must be fill-in-the-blank in order to be *good* women and built their sense of self-worth around achieveing that goal, then when some women come along who reject the premise that fill-in-the-blank is The Way to be a *good* woman, they are likely to be shaken to the core of their self-image. And in that insecurity, they may lash out. As some of them obviously have. It’s a theory in trying to understand where the venom comes from. Might be wrong. Might be right. But it sure is interesting.

    I readily admit that I have insecurities. We all do. I even said point-blank that Caryn hit a sensitive spot for me. But I don’t feel that I have in any way attacked anyone in my comments.

    Vehement though our responses must be (surely both mine and Caryn’s could fairly be classified as vehement), I don’t see them as either attacking or threatening. Vehemence in and of itself is not wrong. (Vehement: zealous, ardent, impassioned.)


  24. vehement=good

    especially when some of us have been biting our tongues for a while. or when some of us are realizing that we’ve been sold a bill of goods “based on the Word of God” that is total and complete bunk/bunkum.


    bunk (bŭngk)
    n. Empty talk; nonsense.

    [Short for bunkum.]
    The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
    Copyright © 2006 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
    Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.


  25. Posted by Mari on March 24, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    I agree that we should be careful not to judge one another harshly on things that I don’t believe are strictly prescribed in scripture. I do not, however, want to go as far as to say that there aren’t certain things we do that are better than others or are more wise than others. For instance, I currently work full-time (part out of the home and part in the home) and have a 6 month old baby but, before you know where I am going with this, I have questioned the wisdom of this arrangement. Why? Because there are so many things to do that I am spread thin and don’t think God, my husband, and my child get their fair share of attention. I am a highly organized person and have a nanny (my sister) and a house cleaning service, yet I still don’t feel my God and my family get enough of me or that I have enough time to give to myself. I feel as though God has been tugging at my heart about this. All this to say, that what concerns me most is the idea that if I come across another mother who, just as myself, is struggling with what she should do that she would find me “judgmental” if I advise her that being at home may be the best thing, not the easiest thing, not the gifted thing, just the best thing. Could it be possible that God may have sent me to that person to tell them this even if it isn’t what they want to hear? Is it possible that though there is no “sin” that can be attached with being a “working mother” that it is not wise to do so and there are people out there that really are speaking from experience? Are we getting caught in the relativism of our culture that says there isn’t a truth that is applicable for everyone not just for some? I don’t know and I struggle with this but I don’t want to dismiss those who are older than me who have lived their lives and may have wisdom that I may not like, to pass on to me. God tells us to look to older women in the church.

    In any case, I whole-heartedly agree that nothing should be said in a mean spirited way. The Bible teaches us to speak the truth IN LOVE. This says to me that though we don’t have a right to be “judgmental” especially since Jesus says it is our tendency to see the splinter in our brother’s eye while missing the beam in our own. But that doesn’t mean that all choices are good choices. Remember, Paul says all things are permissible but may not be good (and I know it is hard sometimes to define what is good). So, though some (or maybe most) comments are harsh and out of line, it doesn’t mean that there may not be any truth/wisdom to some of them. Let us not be put off by how the message is delivered but ask ourselves is there any truth in the message. Is the reason we get upset because of the way the message is delivered, or merely our attempt to be defensive because maybe we are being convicted about something? Again, I am not necessarily saying I agree with the comments of these women. As a matter of fact, I posted a comment about how I think it is incredibly unhealthy to be a “neat freak” especially since my mom died at 44 and she was very clean-obsessed to the point that I think she wore herself down. But, I do have to say that cleanliness is important and just because I don’t like doing it and can find many more activities that can be more important that I shouldn’t prioritize keeping a neat home. Anyway, my point is that we need to be open to hearing opinions we don’t like but may have some underlying truth to them. I don’t really see any comments that address the truthfulness of what is said only defensiveness on everyone’s part. It makes all of us look like bad Christians. Maybe those “judgmental women” are the weaker one’s that Paul mentions and they need grace as well. The world will judge us by how we react to our “enemies” and treat “weak-minded” members of the body.


  26. mari–i feel like my (2) comments here do address the truthfulness: that everyone is judgmental because they want to feel superior.

    i feel like i have encountered enough of this (and dished it out) in my own life to also say that i don’t think we are obligated to “sort through the truth” someone is trying to give us if they are being nasty. ok, let me restate that. if my friend comes over and shares something with me, and i get defensive (which i am prone to do when i am criticized), then i need to ponder this later and figure out what the truth is in what she was saying, whether her delivery was as loving as it should be or not.

    however, with blogger comments on a christian magazine website, i don’t think the group of women sharing their thoughts about motherhood and cleanliness and prioritizing have any obligation whatsoever to sort through the crap to get to the good parts.

    it’s way too easy to get on the computer and just fire off a (rude) comment about something to someone, and there’s no connection, no relationship, just words on a screen directed at someone else. and what the writers don’t stop to think about is that there are real people behind those screens, reading those (rude) comments.

    there should be no excuses made for anyone (including me) who calls herself a christian and exhibits this kind of behavior. and although i did not express that statement in my (2) previous comments, i do think that we should be mindful of how we say things instead of leaving it up to the receiver to figure out what we meant by what we said.


  27. Posted by Robyn on March 24, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    Mari, if what you are trying to say is that it is important to examine our lives under the lense of prayer and the word of God before making important choices for our lives and families (for example: to work for pay or not), then AMEN. I doubt you’ll get anyone in this community arguing with you.

    We each, along with our families, need to craft a plan for living together and raising children (if we’ve got them) that meets our needs as much as possible. That might mean advising someone that being an “at-home-mom” may truly be the best thing FOR HER. For many women and their families, it is. And it’s even more wonderful when they have the financial resources to make that happen!

    There are absolute truths. And there are relative truths. Everything in the world is not black and white. I would venture to say that most is gray, outside of the central tenets of the Bible. Where the Bible speaks, we speak. Where the Bible is silent, each must be convinced in her own mind.

    Although I have seen it attempted, I do not believe that a case can be made from the Bible that God forbids women to work for pay. Therefore, this is an area where each believer must discern for herself (with whatever input from others is appropriate) what is best for her life and her responsibilities.

    What “underlying truth” do you see in the comments made in regard to the Domestically Challenged article?

    Great convo, ladies!


  28. Posted by Mari on March 24, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    The underlying truth is that the ideal state is to have orderliness in our lives. I find it hard to think that God has a “messy” heaven or that IF the world were not fallen, that we wouldn’t have orderliness, so orderliness is important and ideal. Though each individual may not attain this ideal state, it does not mean that we should not try. I think that is what the 4 women who were interviewed were trying to say. Each of them think orderliness is important and they do try to keep it orderly but sometimes life gets in the way.

    Eitherway, my comments were meant to ask whether there is wisdom in doing things a certain way and whether we are all guilty of judging each other. For instance Robyn, would you say that the Bible would allow for men to stay home and raise the children while women work? There is no sin that I can find in this, yet after having read the Bible from beginning to end, I find no precedence for such a situation. It does say woman should be keepers at home and the much discussed Proverbs 31 women did take care of her home/children and it appears it was her primary responsibility while selling land and garments was secondary. Didn’t it say she got up early to feed the servants? My point is that the underlying theme is that we must be careful that whatever we do, it does support our main responsibilities that the Bible and God are directing us too. I have read blogs and comments on many sites and the reoccuring theme is that everyone discusses “my” preferences. I also see plenty of critical mean spirited comments on both sides of any issue including this one. I think that just as it says a lot about the women who were critical about the supposed lack of cleanliness of the women interviewed in the article, I also think it says a lot about someone who can’t be slapped and turn the other cheek. Doesn’t Jesus exhort us to do this as well? Wasn’t he mocked and ridiculed but didn’t utter a word in response? Isn’t this one of the reasons we really love Him? At the end of the day, I don’t believe all things are good and though it can be argued that everyone’s situation is slightly different and may require a more taylored approach, I don’t know if I can say that there isn’t an ideal state that we should all aspire to. Sorry if that offends anyone. I am not trying to be offensive just thinking a loud.


  29. Posted by April G. on March 24, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    We may be getting slightly off topic here, but…

    Mari, you stated that the underlying truth is that we should have orderliness in our lives. And, though I agree with you to an extent and certainly try to have some orderliness in my life, I am not completely convinced that orderliness = godliness. I think we can look to nature for a lesson in this. Though there is certainly orderliness in nature and the way things work when we consider the seasons, the food chain, and science in general, part of the beauty is in the intricacies and imperfections we find. I once sat and pondered this very subject. As I looked out over the forest I was drawn to the differences I saw in the trees. I saw beauty in the fallen ones, the misshapen ones, the short, and the tall ones. It was an example to me of the body of Christ. As a whole, we make up a beautiful scene of God’s grace and originality. I am not sure a pile of leaves, sticks, and dirt would be considered orderly, but it can certainly display the beauty of God.


  30. Posted by Susan A on March 24, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    I just yesterday wrote a post on this called
    “Judging well without being judgmental”


    I wrote:
    “My point is this: as parents, we are deciders in our households, making judgmental calls daily. We are In-Home Judges. This is part of our calling as moms and dads – to employ wisdom in the day-to-day living of our lives as we follow Christ. But there’s a funny paradox here, because the reality of our being childrearing judges within our homes should not equate with becoming judgmental of other moms who parent differently.

    Who among us hasn’t felt judged in our mothering, at one time or another? We’re bottle-feeding when we should be breastfeeding. Our kids aren’t sleeping through the night yet when other same-age infants we know are. Junior is ill-behaved in public, bringing disapproving frowns. We aren’t a full-time stay-at-home mom OR we are (both fodder for judgment there, depending on the company). Among critical-spirited segments of society, moms can be the worst…

    We moms need to take Jesus’ words at face value: “Don’t judge… As you judge others, you will be judged.” I can be as critical toward others’ parenting style as the next mom, but I’m trying to keep these words in mind – and this too: “Judgment without mercy will be shown toward anyone who has not been merciful; mercy triumphs over judgment.””

    Seems like this topic, and the comments to the TCW article that generated it, makes my point ALL TOO perfectly…


  31. Posted by Robyn on March 24, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    Mari, yes! I do think the Bible allows for men to be “stay at home” parents! I don’t see anywhere in the Bible where men are told NOT to do domestic chores, NOT to be primary caregivers to their children. I don’t think that this distinction between “staying home” and “working” existed in the Bible. It’s only a recent, modern dichotomy. For many millennia past, work and home were synonymous. Outside of certain privileged classes of society, everyone pitched in to make a living. Because their survival depended on it. Also, we must pick the eternal truths out from the cultural context of the Bible. Otherwise, we women would have to cover our heads at all time and be considered “unclean” for half of our lives.

    My husband would LOVE to be a stay-at-home father. And, you know what? He’d be darn good at it. Better than I would, I dare say. If we had the financial resources, and we felt it was best for our family to have one of us not work for pay, he is probably the one who would fit that position.

    I don’t believe that keeping a home and raising children are women’s “main responsibilities.” I believe that all Christians, male, female, white, black, purple, married, single, widowed, childless, parents, whatever, are first and foremost called to serve and love God with all that they are, according to his call on their lives. And the second command is similar: to love our neighbors as ourselves.

    I’m not sure why you say that the Proverbs 31 woman’s “primary” responsibility was a home as I don’t see her activities prioritized in any kind of hierarchy when reading the text. It doesn’t say that one took precedence over another. It simply states all the various things she did that made her an ideal. (One that I don’t think any woman can live up to, personally, and which is also bound to the pre-Christian cultural perspective from which the chapter was written.)

    Too much of what I see that “the church” teaches about “women’s place” is the product of culture and tradition. And when I read the bible (cover to cover, though it’s been several years since I did that), I don’t find that it comes from God. (Oh, if only there was a more egalitarian church close to my home.)

    Is God orderly? Yes. And so should we be. But it is not our primary calling to have perfect-looking homes, as women or as Christ-followers. We must balance our responsibilities in such a way that we are pleasing God in all that we do. Surely, ignoring our other callings (teaching, preaching, parenting, relationships, evangelism, caring for the poor) in order to have Martha-worthy homes is not honoring to God.


  32. Posted by Mari on March 24, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    I do believe my point is being lost but that’s OK. My main point is that we should not be harsh with one another when we express our opinions and that I think it is possible that many of us are overlooking the possibility that there is a best way of living. The alternates may not be sinful but may not be wise.

    Also, for the record, I am not saying cleanliness = godliness. I only say that the ideal state is orderliness. If people want to disagree, that’s fine. In my reading of the Bible I see this principle stated over and over but if others don’t see it then that’s fine.

    I also do not agree that “stay at home” fathers are a wise option that God would look favorably on no matter how good the father may be. I do agree that household duties should be the duty of everyone who live in the household but that has nothing to do with who is primarily responsible for what. I can’t escape the fact that I have the breasts and the uterus so there must be a reason God made it that way. I think there are roles whether we want to admit to it or not and we are not interchangeable, culture set aside. I am not commenting on culture only the stories and references I have read about women in the Bible. Though I do not think the Proverbs 31 woman is achievable by any of us, I do think she is the “ideal”. In any case, I am not isolating this passage of scripture. It is just one example that must be taken in light of all scripture that I believe illustrate the principle but, as someone said, we are way off topic.

    Thanks to everyone for their input.


  33. All of this helps me see even more clearly that I need a very big God.

    Thank you, ladies for creating a place to process, discuss, etc. I’m very grateful to you & those who participate here…


  34. Posted by Robyn on March 24, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    Mari, I wanted to say something else. If you feel the tug of God on your heart to be a “stay-at-home” mom, you should pay attention to that!

    Anyone know the story of the first time Billy and Ruth Graham heard their daughter, Ann Graham Lotz, preach? Forgive me if I don’t tell it perfectly. I can’t remember where I read it. It goes something like this: They had their doubts that she could be a “good” wife and mother while still taking on this calling from God. So they went to hear her teach. And, apparently, they were amazed and couldn’t deny that God had placed a mantle on her to preach the word. And to their further astonishment, they discovered that her family and home remained well-taken care of. She could be a wife, a mother, and have an active ministry too! Not all of us are called to that. But I really look up to her as a shining example of following God’s lead while fulfilling the relational responsibilities of family.


  35. Posted by Robyn on March 24, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    Mari, I understand your point in your first paragraph. I acknowledge what you are saying. I believe that there are many “best” ways of living that are wise, and that what is best and wise is not the same for everyone, and my husband and I cannot say what God’s best is for anyone else’s family but our own. And I’m grateful that he continues to discipline and grow us to show us how to be wise in seeking his best for our family.

    I’m happy to cheerfully agree to disagree, in a spirit of sisterhood. 🙂


  36. Really, you all should read the books by Meredith Efken, SAHM I AM and @ Home for the Holidays. Read the books, and you’ll understand why I’m suggesting you read them. I always feel subhuman when I read the blogs about “keepers at home”, “the Titus 2 Woman”, etc. I’m just trying to make it through my day, let alone get a shower (that would be a bonus). I manage : ). I think it’s funny, really, how critical ladies can be. I also think it’s a bit sad to think of the facade they must maintain since they’ve set such a high mark for themselves to attain to daily. It makes me tired just reading it what their day looks like. Besides, I delegate my little ones to tackle some of the household duties, which is a major help. Our house may not be in perfect order (whatever that means), but my girls are learning valuable skills.


  37. Posted by Bookgirl on March 24, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    Hi all. I read through some of the TCW comments, and to be honest, I’m not surprised. I’m sad, but I’m not surprised at all. Blog comments can be vicious, and the church can be vicious, too. (I’m thinking back to the Cult of the Family post on this blog. It got ugly, too.)

    And yes, much of this nastiness masks a lot of insecurity.

    I applaud all you revolutionaries. Keep the faith.


  38. Ah, Caryn, I’m so sorry. Words cannot share how sad I feel. I love discussion. I love dialogue that challenges us as women, but I don’t like mean-spirited or hurtful comments.

    I work from home and am a mom, though my children are grown. When my children left for college, I thought now my house will be clean.

    Wrong. : )

    Guess what I discovered? I’m the messy one. My house is beautiful. It’s clean most of the time, but tonight is not one of those. I’m under deadline. But my family and I have always pitched in together. I’ve been able to raise three beautiful smart in-love-with-God children who will one day remember mom and our play times, and not necessarily the sweet smell of Pine-Sol as their greatest memories.

    And last, I’m one of those Proverbs 31 women in that magazine one commentor mentioned. The P31 women in Scripture was so industrious, not just in her home, her community, her family, her work, but in life. The P31 women in the magazine know we can’t live up to her, but we do love Jesus and our families first, and just try to run after God and help build a kingdom.

    I appreciate you and this fascinating conversation.


  39. Posted by Susan on March 24, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    I truly appreciated your article. All too often I am telling my husband that I wish women were more supportive of eachother and honest about their struggles so that we can start to allow God’s strength to shine through our weaknesses. Perhaps in the simple act of helping a new mom or wife or just a friend who is struggling to not feel that she has be perfect (nobody can be) and to take comfort in knowing there are others who understand.

    I have so many moments as a mom/wife where I wish I could just cry on someone’s shoulder or just tell them what I’m struggling with so that I can begin to find some strength from encouragment and the comfort of knowing that others go through it too. But all too often I’m afraid to open up to those around me who seem to always be on top of every area of their lives and who appear to be perfect in every way.

    What a comfort to know that there are other Christian women who have the same struggles and the same choices to make when laying out their priorities and knowing that they can’t give it all 100%! By discussing your weaknesses so openly and honestly you have allowed God’s strength to come through as comfort to those who are needing it more than ever!

    Thank you for that 🙂


  40. Posted by Sheri on March 25, 2009 at 8:34 am

    I’m at work (working so my husband can go to school and pursue a music career that God seems to be leading us into) right now, so this will be quick. My house is a mess. This may or may not mean my life is a mess – but guess what – people who say their lives aren’t a mess? They lie. My family has clean underwear, food, creativity and love. What else do they need? There are people in my life who judge the carpet-o-toys on our floor, the dishes in my sink and the crumbs under the table. When I read the “messy” article, I was so encouraged! Please know that not only do I not judge you, but as a Christian mom who STRUGGLES daily with our family’s decision for me to work and leave my two young daughters at home with their dad, I felt uplifted spiritually and emotionally. That article what just what I needed.


  41. Posted by Wendy L on March 25, 2009 at 11:05 am

    I didn’t finish all the comments, or the article, because I am at work: I work 25 hours a week at a church (which, as we all know, does not really mean part-time in a church) – but I did read the one about the woman who thought it was awful that people work to pay someone to clean their house…bad example, blah blah blah. I love that I can pay someone to clean my house! I am helping my husband stay sane by having a clean house every other week, rather than maybe once a month if I get around to it; the kids still have chores and cleaning to do on a daily basis because the daily stuff just never goes away; and I am employing a couple of women who need the money! I am thinking there is nothing un-Christian about that and I don’t think I’m setting a bad example for anyone. We are all created differently, have different skills, interests, abilities, gifts. No judgment for those who love keeping house and all. Happy that there are good options for those of us who aren’t made that way.


  42. Posted by karin on March 25, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    When I read the comments you posted I found myself becoming kind of defensive as if they were attacking my friends. I think it’s because I have been coming to this conversation for awhile and kind of feel like everyone here IS my friend. What got me riled up immediately when I read the post yesterday is the judgment that I felt was passed along to the four of you, who were simply being honest and vulnerable and saying what so many of us would like to say. I don’t see any biblical precident for having a spotless house. Taking care of your home and family is a much deeper issue than having clean floors and sparkling toilets. I’m always a tad jealous of women who can keep a clean, organized, tidy house, but really I think there is something a bit strange about a house that is “too” clean. First of all I don’t feel at home, but it also always makes me wonder what life is really like behind the veil of cleanliness.

    And, isn’t there a difference between cleanliness and messiness? A house with an active family life is going to be messy, but that is totally different than filth. A filthy house isn’t healthy, a messy house teaches our kids that life is indeed “messy” and we just need to keep working at it. God accepts our messiness and helps us keep working at it, making it a little more organized along the way.

    “We all have messy souls, really, in some way. Maybe a messy house is just a more open way of showing it.” So true, Caryn. Life with others is messy both physically and relationally. Putting on the mask just keeps us from opening up to each other in a genuine way. Hospitality is about inviting people into your life, not just entertaining guest in a spotless home. (there is a whole discussion we could enter into behind the idea of what “entertaining” really is.)

    Living in a third world country I think of how many people here don’t have a home to be messy, or how many people have so few possessions that messiness doesn’t even enter the picture. And, this is how 90% of the world lives. Remembering that these people are concerned about having enough food to feed their children today helps me find a little perspective when I wish I could change the color shceme of my living room. The whole “messy” home dilemma really affects the world’s affluent. We have so many possessions that we have to create ways to keep it tidy and unmessy. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of Real Simple and all of the ideas for projects to transform my house into the most effecient, organized, comfortable, inviting home I can imagine, but when it comes down to it I am just pretty darn thankful I have a nice home with plenty of food on the table. And, by the way we are here for my husband’s job and live among the more affluent of the country and I have to deal with “keeping up the front” all the time. I would be chastised from his family if my house didn’t appear in some kind of order. So, I struggle with it everyday even in another environment. It all just seems to be another one of the societal expectation we have to deal with and figure out how to respond to.


  43. Posted by karin on March 25, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    Oh my goodness. I was just reading through the comments and saw another Karin commented. My last name starts with an “H”, too. How funny!


  44. Posted by Andrea on March 25, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    First, I want to let you know that I’ve been reading your blog for several weeks now and love the conversations going on here. Thanks!

    I would also describe myself as a “messy” who struggles at staying on top of housekeeping. It is always a bit of a balancing act to keep things “working for me” without going too far into chaos or too far into perfectionism. When things get too messy it does impede with my ability to do other things more efficiently or to practice hospitality as I wish I could. On the other hand, I’m not willing to make a clean house a priority over all else. So I’m a work in progress. I think I’m growing in this area, but it is definitely a struggle for me.

    To me the expectation to keep a perfectly clean “Pottery Barn” house is similar to the expectation to maintain a model-perfect (adolescent) body. Both are media-created ideals and not the natural state for most people. Yes, a certain amount of self-discipline is necessary and good in both diet/exercise and housekeeping. I don’t think they are ends in themselves, though. They are a means to living healthy and productive lives and to fulfilling our God-given callings. But we all have gloriously different shaped bodies, and we all have different shaped lives. We’re human! How short-sighted to judge someone on the appearance of their body or their home out of context of the rest of their life.

    One of my very favorite poems is Pied Beauty by Gerard Manley Hopkins. I thought it appropriate for this conversation. I hope you don’t mind my quoting it here:

    GLORY be to God for dappled things—
    For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
    For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
    Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
    Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
    And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

    All things counter, original, spare, strange;
    Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
    With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
    He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
    Praise him.


  45. Andrea–love that poem and your thoughts on “different shaped lives.” Thanks for sharing…


  46. Posted by Becky on March 25, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    Wow, guys. Sorry you got thrown under the bus. I’m glad you were honest. And if I had read an article about how I need to try harder to get my God-ordained responsibilities in order and keep my house clean I would have had to throw the magazine (or my laptop?) out the window.

    I just moved to a new country, and having a spotless house all the time is basically required of all women. Ouch. The only saving grace is that household help is really affordable, so for the first time in my life I’m not doing all the cleaning by myself (can I say, “Whew!”???) I’m sure I offend my neighbors every time I open my door to them when they’re bringing me delicious just-cooked food and they peek into the living room and see toys on the floor, unfolded laundry piled on the couch, and papers all over the table. So far I’ve just been willing to deal with the cultural fallout from that. I’m hoping I’ll figure something out someday, so I can have some friends here 🙂


  47. Posted by karin on March 26, 2009 at 6:29 am

    Becky… I don’t know where you live, but it sounds a lot like the Caribbean country we just moved to 4 1/2 months ago. Same thing…cultural expectations to have a tidy house, but affordable help to keep it clean. I am also living in a very dirty country and everytime I turn around there is a layer of dust on top of every surface. Mostly because we have our windows open all of the time.

    Anyway, we often have books on the table and toys on the floor when relatives come over and I go from feeling like my house should look as spick and span as theirs to thinking that our house looks like life is happening in every corner. I like to fall back on the fact that I’m an American and we are just a lot more casual than my host country.

    I’m with you, Becky.


  48. Posted by Brandi on March 26, 2009 at 8:47 am

    I had the priviledge of reading the article and have to say that I found it to be a breath of fresh air.

    I am a new mom and have been struggling with incredibly high expectations of myself. After spending many years in the business world, I am now adjusting to a new baby AND a new job as a stay-at-home mom. According to some of the responses you received, I should have incredible amounts of time and energy to care for my 6 month old, clean my house, do laundry, and keep myself from going crazy. I tried it. It didn’t work.

    Instead, I found myself constantly feeling like a failure and having a low sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. Your article freed me to be real and honest about how I was feeling. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for being honest. I needed that.


  49. Wow.

    just yesterday I was thinking about how glad I was that we had moved to a lower=income neighborhood where having a perfect house and yard isn’t the norm. I’m happy that I don’t have to waste my time (and hurt the environment) by keeping up with the jonses manicured lawns.

    I am always weirded out by clean homes. Half the time I wonder – a. what amount on money those people are wasting on a maid, that could be used for a bazillion better things and b. how shallow their lives must be if their time is spent perfecting a facade (and i know that’s judgemental…). If I keep my house spotless I wouldn’t have a self, or be interesting enough to converse with my husband, or be an example of the type person I want my kids to be.

    I do think its a lie fed to us by american dream consumerism that we have to have a perfect house. I see nothing biblical at all about it. God is mysterious and uncontainable. I am wary of those that try to box him up into an ordered tame category. Orderliness in my home is not part of my faith (nor is its companion ultra-scheduling my baby…).

    I totally understand how we all interpret the bible differently, but I’ll be the one to say that I think that interpretation of scripture is dangerous and can do more harm for the kingdom than good.


  50. Posted by Robyn on March 27, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    “God is mysterious and uncontainable.”

    Oh, yes! I’ve learned this more and more. It’s a scary (because we like things cut and dry/black and white) and wonderful (because it gives us a sense of awe and acknowledgement that God is so different from us and we can never truly understand him).


  51. Posted by Kayla on March 28, 2009 at 10:12 am

    I’m 20 years old and getting ready to graduate college. Reading these comments makes me never want to get married or have children because these women make me think that when I do, I will completely lose my identity and my unique abilities to do things to help the world. If I want to work outside of the home, I believe that I have that right. You may even disagree with that, but I do not think that there is a hard and fast rule for it. To condemn someone for the way that they are making their life work is to step outside of your authority, and these comments just irk me to no end. If being a stay at home mom with a clean house makes me end up like THAT, no thanks!


  52. Kayla,
    Here is the problem when we, as Christ followers, lose sight of whom it is that we are following and begin to pursue cultural expectations rather than the voice of God. God has created you with a calling and purpose, and has gifted you to achieve that for which He created you. When we begin to make blanket statements about the responsibilities of women, we remove God from the conversation. What has God called you to do? Has He called you to be united to a man in marriage? Then be obedient. Has He called you to serve Him in the home, outside of the home, for pay or not? Follow Him in obedience.
    Your goal in life is not to become the perfect wife/housekeeper/mommy. Your goal in life should be to serve God in whatever He has called you, so that when He calls you Home, He will be able to say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
    Is your house spic and span? Who cares. In your conversations with God, what is He telling you about it? How is He leading you? That is all that matters. We as a people tend to lose focus of that, making the unimportant matters into non-negotiable deal breakers, and it should not be so. Don’t lose focus on the important matters. What has He called you to do? Set your priorities from there and you will not be led astray.


  53. Posted by Kayla on March 29, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    Thanks, Shauna, that’s really great and exactly what I needed to hear. More people just need to say, “Go for it!”


  54. Sorry it took me so long to fnd your blog. Unlike some people, I was cleaning my house.

    This is brilliant. You’re Christian industry insiders, but also speaking your unedited/uneditor voices here. Your genuine respect for Christian magazines and their readers is evident, and so is the fullness of your voices, which is essential to hear both on the inside and the outside. What a smart use of a blog. I like this kind of balance between conventional print publication and internet — creative tension.

    I just heard a dust particle fall. Gotta go eradicate it.


  55. Susie Larson has said that until we really grasp our identity in Christ, every choice we make will be an attempt to rescue our sense of self-worth.

    And our Carla has said if we’re coming from a place of fear that we can feel threatened by other people’s choices (that are different than ours). We don’t want to mess up our kids, and we feel the need to know we’re doing the “best thing” for them.

    So, take the fear that I’m already screwed up, coupled with fear that I’ll screw up my kids… add to that being taught in church to consider certain paths as “the best” and others at “lesser,” and, Viola! A perfect recipe for rigidity.

    When I would see others making different choices, it made me scared for *them* too. I never thought I was better. I did think I made better choices, by God’s grace. And I always wanted *the best* for the other people in my life, too.

    Scared I was messed up. Scared I’d mess up my kids. Scared she’d mess up her life, and her kids….

    All the time, meaning well. All the time scared.

    What trap from the pit. And what a gigantic waste of energy!

    My identity in Christ is so much more—so much wider and deeper and higher—than I could have ever conceived of, and no externals could define or contain it.


  56. OOPS… for anyone who knows me and/or goes to church with me, I don’t mean our church (of the past eleven years), I mean before that. 🙂


  57. Posted by Robyh on March 30, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    fear that I am messed up + fear that I am messing up my kid = me, needing reassurance that God loves me and has called me according to his purpose


  58. Robyh–God loves you and has called you according to His purpose. 🙂


  59. Posted by Angelyn on March 30, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    So many thoughts come to mind … (I’m coming late to this conversation AND I have not read the original article that sparked all the very sad comments – remember that anger is an emotion that’s masking something else …)

    #1 – My friend, Susan, who is a mom and works full-time outside the home readily admits that it’s easy to keep a mostly un-used house clean (she does not pay for a cleaner).

    #2 – During a sermon at my church MANY years ago, while teaching about priorities and margin in our lives, our teaching pastor suggested that we go home and write “joy” in the dust.

    #3 – During our church’s family camp in October, our speaker (a pastor from the great – but cold – state of Minnesota) said that it’s much easier to pick up a “picket sign” (in the case of the article’s commenters’ – words) than it is to love a person.

    Thank you, Carla & Caryn, SO MUCH for this space to be authentic.
    – Angelyn


  60. Posted by Robyn on March 31, 2009 at 8:14 am

    Thanks, Charlotte. You’d think I would be able to spell my own name, huh?


  61. that’s hilarious. i did spend a couple of moments before that last post trying to figure out how to pronounce it & wondering about the country of origin and whatnot. 🙂


  62. Posted by Chandelle on April 1, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    I want to share a book “Mother Styles: Using Personality Type to Discover Your Parenting Strengths” by Janet P. Penley

    It is a wonderful book celebrating our differences, identifying why some women have certain strengths and other women different ones. It also identifies weaknesses and struggles for each parenting style.

    So far, it has been an encouragement to me and helps me to understand why I do things the way I do. It is providing me with knowledge on how to set boundaries based on my needs as an individual so I have the best energy to give to my children.


  63. Posted by Amanda on April 26, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    This is my first time reading this blog. I actually have only read TCW once or twice, but I bought this issue SPECIFICALLY for this article! I am a mother of 2 and work full time outside the home. My husband and I have always struggled with feeling like we have to keep up with our friends and neighbors, many of whom are 5-10 years older and in a different stage of life.
    I was so delighted to read this article! How wonderful to have a group of women help me to understand that I don’t need to push myself into a perfection that doesn’t exist. I came to this blog to check out what it was like and I was appalled to read the nasty comments! Christian women can be really mean! I left the church in high school because the ‘Christian’ kids were mean and judgemental… seems many of them haven’t changed.
    I thank you so much for this article and this discussion.


  64. Hi every body


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