A while back, my wife Merry was with a group of young mothers, and she was struck by how many did not feel valued. They were in the daily grind of parenting, dealing with all the challenges of raising young children. Yes, they often felt fulfilled, but they also felt dry and stretched and frazzled. They wondered if their efforts would pay off.
Merry said one of the big problems was, “They were receiving hardly any encouragement from their husbands.” They felt their husbands didn’t understand what they were doing, and they felt unappreciated.
Our culture doesn’t offer a lot of encouragement to mothers. In contrast, I recently found the transcript of a wonderful 1905 speech by President Theodore Roosevelt. Speaking to the National Congress of Mothers, he said:
No piled-up wealth, no splendor of material growth, no brilliance of artistic development, will permanently avail any people unless its home life is healthy …
No ordinary work done by a man is either as hard or as responsible as the work of a woman who is bringing up a family of small children; for upon her time and strength demands are made not only every hour of the day but often every hour of the night …
The woman who is a good wife, a good mother, is entitled to our respect as is no one else …
Encouraging your wife
As I read Roosevelt’s remarks, I wondered, When was the last time a President said something like this? If our culture doesn’t uphold wives and mothers with words like these, then it’s up to us husbands.
1 Peter 3:7 tells me to live with my wife “in an understanding way” and to “grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life.” As I’ve applied this verse to my life, I have realized I need to understand Merry’s world—the pressures and problems she is facing, her successes and her struggles. And I need to honor her for what she is doing well as a wife and mom.
One way I honored Merry was writing an article as a tribute to her when our daughters, Bethany and Missy, were 7 and 4. I wanted her to know how much I appreciated her, and I wanted to remind her of how God was using her. So I thought I’d share part of what I wrote because these are the things we need to be telling our wives:
Like any other mother, it’s easy for Merry to grow discouraged during the day-to-day grind of fixing meals and settling arguments and playing games and reading stories and running errands. So often I’ve heard her say, “I’m tired of being a mother,” or, “I feel like I’ve been yelling at these kids all day long!”
But the reality is that she’s not just meeting physical needs. Even when she doesn’t realize it, she’s spending her days building character. She’s raising two little girls who, I hope, will grow up to be much like her.
From Merry, our daughters learn that there is a right and wrong, and that those who do wrong are punished.
They learn that God is real, that He is a personal God with whom we can communicate.
They learn that the Bible is truly the Word of God, able to speak to us today.
When she makes a mistake and blames them for something they didn’t do, and realizes it, they learn that a mother can be humble enough to ask their forgiveness.
When she takes them to the library to check out some books, and then returns home to read to them, they discover the excitement and importance of reading.
When they see Merry give me a hug and kiss as I walk into the house at the end of a work day, they see how a wife loves and honors her husband.
They watch as Merry reaches out to neighbors and friends. They go with her when Merry takes food to a sick friend. They learn about mercy and compassion.
When Merry gives them responsibilities around the house, they (grudgingly and slowly) learn about perseverance and doing a job right.
Bethany and Missy learn to tell the truth, because their mother doesn’t lie to them or tolerate lies from them.
They learn that many of the things the world says are important (such as acquiring money and possessions, and gaining power) are actually temporal and meaningless.
Of course, our two girls don’t realize that their mom is teaching them all these things. They are two human beings who will eventually make their own choices about their lives. But our hope is in the truth revealed in Proverbs 22:6, that if we “train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Chances are that Bethany and Missy will have much of Merry in them when they go off to college and find jobs and raise their own families. If that’s true, then I think that Merry will have succeeded in the most important job she’ll ever have.
Boy, reading these words reminds me that I married pretty well! I think I need to encourage and honor her like this more often.
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This article originally appeared in Marriage Memo, a weekly e-newsletter from FamilyLife.