Guest Blogger-Diane Brierley, Co-Host of The Mark Gungor Show
Several times on the show, we have heard from wives who feel as if they have to be and do everything in their homes and are very upset because their husbands don’t help them. I call this the “Martha Complex”—where wives think they have to be “superwoman”. Now, because Mark Gungor is not a woman and he is not a “Martha”, he asked me to give my perspective speaking as a “reformed” Martha!
We can start with the biblical example of Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42) when addressing women about this and see how Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus just listening to him while Martha was running around taking care of all that she thought needed to be done. Martha ends up getting mad because she’s doing all the work, and thinking Jesus will be on her side, asks Jesus to tell Mary to help her. But Jesus doesn’t do that. Instead, he tells Martha to chill out and leave Mary alone because she has chosen what is better–that which is more important. (The Gungor translation!)
As women, far too many of us get caught up in doing things that we think are so important and neglect those things which are really the priority…like our husbands and even our children! True, there are many things that we need to do as wives and mothers. Packing lunches, doing laundry, cleaning the house, giving kids baths, checking homework, and the list goes on and on. Women think they have to do all these things and do them RIGHT NOW, but their husbands are more relaxed and it doesn’t really matter to them if long list of things gets done immediately…or in some cases, ever! Honestly, the world will not come to an end if the kitchen floor isn’t swept before you go to bed. Every blooming bit of organizing and housework doesn’t have to be done by sundown. Remember, the Proverbs 31 woman didn’t do all of that in 24 hours! She didn’t even do it by herself because she had all kinds of hired help!
Just keeping up with the list of “have to dos” like grocery shopping, freeing the sink of dirty dishes and keeping your family in clean underwear, is often a lot for wives to do—especially if they have careers outside the home. But then on top of it, there is something rather twisted in the minds of us women that propels us beyond the “have to dos’, into the realm of Martha Madness. For example, we are not happy just throwing a simple birthday party with a few balloons and a cake for our two year old. Martha Madness compels us to create individual, handmade invitations of faux leather in the shape of cowboy hats, set up a petting zoo complete with pony rides, design and sew cowboy costumes for the kids to wear, erect a five layer cake in the shape of a barn with animal figurines quite like a museum display, plus redecorate the house because the mom’s playgroup is coming to the party (along with 22 toddlers in tow) and the house needs to look nice when they all get there. While this may be slightly exaggerated (and only slightly for some), most women reading this will get the picture! All of the fuss and muss—that truthfully, our husbands and kids don’t even care about—all those things that exhaust us, could really go by the wayside and everyone would be all the better for it. So why do we make ourselves crazy?
Unrealistic expectations are the culprit. Expectation that come from having to do things like Mom or Grandma did, or how our sisters or girlfriends do. And let’s be honest…all the programs on TV from Rachel Ray to 24 hours of HGTV don’t help matters! It all began with that crazy Martha Stewart…ever wonder why she’s named MARTHA? Hmmm, I think it’s no coincidence! I admit it: I was a chronic Martha due in part to expectations from all of the above. Then I got wise and decided I needed a lot less Martha and a little more Mary in my life. Simplify, became the motto of the day and it has made a gigantic difference!
This year at Christmas I did not put up 27 boxes of Christmas decorations (and have to take them down!), frost 144 sugar cookies plus bake 9 other types of cookies, assemble a gingerbread house, hand-stamp 94 Christmas cards, write a Christmas letter, shop for 86 hours in 59 stores trying to find the exact perfect everything, nor did I plan three sit-down meals plus a huge Christmas breakfast all crammed in around church services, children’s programs, Christmas parties, luncheons and teas. (Not to mention a 40 hour a week job, kids in sports and the other things of normal life!) ALL of which I have done in the past. Nope, this year I put up three boxes of decorations, made no cookies, printed photo cards with stickers to address, simplified shopping by getting gift cards and doing the rest of it online, cooked out of the box appetizers with a crock pot ham and asked my kids and husband to help. Lo and behold, what do you suppose happened at our house? We had a fabulous and wonderful holiday. Mom wasn’t exhausted and stressed out and everyone was happy. (Although my grandmother had a few things to say about my “lack of Christmas spirit”! Ugh!) Recreating a Norman Rockwell Christmas didn’t happen and we were better off for it.
When we intentionally lay aside the things that are not important and prioritize those which truly are, we choose to really put our families first. Our husbands don’t care if the house doesn’t look like Better Homes and Gardens if it means that you don’t have time or energy for him later. He’d rather have a dirty floor and dishes in the sink for a day but be able to make love with you that night. Most men are not the ones putting the long “to do” lists in front of their wives. In the end, what will matter most– if your house was Martha Stewart approved or if you spent time with your husband and kids? You don’t have to do all this for them; they don’t really want or need it–even though we often say we are doing it for them. They would rather have you! It’s like a man working ridiculous hours, never being home and always coming home exhausted from the job saying “he’s doing it for his wife and kids”. The majority of us would rather have our hubbies home and available to us. The same holds true for the inverse.
Break out of the “super-woman” trap. Really! Stop doing all the things that aren’t essential. Ask for help, scale back and do less. Live recklessly and eat off of paper plates! Do less, love more. Become less like Martha and more like Mary. Choose what is truly important and matters most, over what you think is urgent. Lose the distractions. Honestly, it’s very liberating and gives you more time and energy to put where it really matters. Your family will be better for it. You must choose what is better and in the words of Jesus, “It won’t be taken from you.” (Luke 10:42)