Less Martha and More Mary

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)

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65 Responses to “Less Martha and More Mary”

  1. Ashley says:

    I LOVE this article! I am a perfectionist and feel like I have to do it all and with a 120% vigor. Recently I started my own non-profit organization, Foundation Restoration, to pursue the calling God placed on my life, but that in combination with another part-time Managing Editor position, being a wife, in a small group, church activities and functions, family spread all over the country … well, I am worn out! This article speaks to my spirit because I have been praying for the ability to balance it all, and I think the answer is in realizing my value as a woman and wife doesn’t come from perfection. Great article! I am going to share this on my website – http://www.foundationrestoration.org!

  2. Nikki says:

    I think this is a great perspective but what if your husband wants you to be MORE of a Martha and less of a Mary. :) I tend to error on the side of “oh that can wait, let’s play, we (my son and I) haven’t seen you all day”. Or, because I have an infant son, things don’t always get done around the house in the time frame that my husband would prefer because I am busy chasing a 1 year old around all day and want to have some time to relax in the evenings. I find myself telling him to relax, and not worry about things being clean all the time. I know this frustrates him but the woman’s lib personality (there seem to be several) of my inner self, is frustrated that I am the sole person who takes care of the house (he feels his contribution is being the financial provider – even though I work part time from home) and feels justified to do it in my own timing, especially because there are situations where he is the sole proprietor of the mess. Kind of works against the whole submissive wife thing. ;)

    I am sure that it is about finding a balance. Let’s just say I am still traveling towards that middle ground. :)

    • Rhonda says:

      I’ve wondered this too, because there are more men like this (wanting Martha wives) than ppl realize. It’s doubly bad when the wife works outside the home. God bless you women who do.

    • Bob says:

      I am one of these husbands who wants my wife to be more like a Martha. In contrast to many other husbands, I do help with alot of the work at home. Therefore, I find myself frustrated that I work all day, come home and help with dinner, clean up, laundry, etc and still have to find time for projects around home. My wife is a wonderful person and loves our family, but I don’t know how we can find a balance in how she uses her time and my expectations of her as a stay at home mom. I know raising children takes a lot of time, but often I am able to accomplish the household task when I am home alone with the children. So, to me, my expectations are not unreasonable. Any insights would be appreciated.

      • Rhonda says:

        Well goody goody gumdrop for you that you’re able to accomplish tasks while watching kids. Everybody’s different. Your expectations for your wife?-therein lies your problem. Get off your highhorse.

        • chris says:

          Didnt know where to insert this….but sorry to say….there is something about the manner in which men and women view “time’ that prevents women from generally getting things done and men are able to. I have 4 kids, have been a stay home dad for months on end…and the time i have to “let the kids watch a video”…like literally JUST sitting them there and not being engaged is NIL! Its just that I dont leave a room w/out something in my hand that is headed elsewhere, I clean where they are, I get them to help in fun ways….I have all laundry all dishes and all clutter done daily, its JUST NOT HARD, and I have had the pleasure of meeting a handful of women that will confess this that they cannot seem to manage the time, getting EASILY sidetracked on things, taking a phone call, whatever….and seeming to be busy all day, but getting little done, then gripping that he comes home and doesnt want to help.

          So its like this…he is at work…where he MUST manage his time…period…he cannot say OH I didnt get to it today to his boss…..then he comes home and his wife CAN choose to delay certain things, rearrange priorities, decide one day to put off laundry to the next day, etc….and yet w/ all that flexibility she cant have the place even de-cluttered when he gets home? Sorry gals….as an experienced SAHD, with a bro in law also a SAHD with SEVEN KIDS…..sorry to break it to ya….it is doable, and though Im now the one working, the 2 years I did it were awesome! My BIL still does it, AND he homeschools the younger kids…and still he is done done done by 1-2PM daily.

          I asked one sister in law to explain her day….when she told me about the time she took to “collect her thoughts” I stopped listening.

          you are all in denial about something that CAN BE DONE. It neednt be a battle between spouses at all, men shouldnt be on your back badly about it….HOWEVER….when you seem to never have the place caught up except the weekends when he picthes in, and you complain to him that its not doable….you are being disingenuous

          • Laura says:

            Your comment is unkind and shows a lack of understanding of the differences between the workings of men’s and women’s brains. All of a woman’s thoughts are connected to each other, while a man can separate and compartmentalize his thoughts. A woman generally gets distracted often because of these connections, but they make her a better multitasker too. When you say you stopped listening because she had to “collect her thoughts” you showed her a disservice and a great deal of disrespect. She had to do exactly that–choose which thoughts to chase and which to ignore. Men do this naturally–it is difficult for women. Please show some understanding.

      • Nikki says:

        I would suggest picking your battles. Realize that if you have a looong list of expectations, you will most likely end up disappointed. But if you are able to pick out a couple things here or there that you would like for your wife to accomplish and focus on that with her, chances are she will be much more successful in following through. For me, I know I need appreciation for the things I do get done. My husband will say to me “what did you do all day?” because I didn’t finish his laundry or get to pulling the weeds outside or dinner is late when in reality, I cleaned the bathrooms, vacuumed, took the kid to a play date, worked for 5 hours, dealt with our tenants, talked to his mother, talked to my mother, chased the kid around, played with the kid, cleaned up while the kid was napping, went grocery shopping…you get the picture. So no, the blinds didn’t get dusted. Sorry! :) And my day doesn’t end when he gets home, there is dinner, and baths and pets and laundry. But the flip side? I’d be glad to sit with you while you watch the game! :) Good luck! I wish my husband was interested in finding a balance!

        • chris says:

          Men like de-cluttered environment in general. Coming home and finding simply the floors not stacked with toys, the pillows on the couch set neatly, and the kitchen not scrubbed, but just tidy…..is enough…its a first impression when walking in the door, that either he can relax, or he needs to launch right in and start cleaning.

          Someone said it above, feminism has infected everyone to one degree or another…the work is beneath you, or, you think that a kid not fully engaged by a mom 100% of the time is being ignored….silly! its not our place to do what we do with kids, the CONSTANT stimulation and “smart play” etc…..its ok…breath…let the kid draw or color or GASP! watch a movie for a bit

      • Anna says:

        Good for you for helping around the house! I’m sure your wife appreciates that. As a stay-at-home mom, I find that often my husband is able to get tasks done more quickly than I do when he’s home alone with the children too. My take on that – and this is our situation, maybe yours is different – is that the way he cares for the children while he’s alone with them is different. For instance, he has no problem turning on a video for them while he cleans the kitchen. I have no problem with him doing that once in a while (he doesn’t stay with them alone often) but I definitely don’t want to do it on a daily basis. So while I’m trying to do something like clean the kitchen, the boys are either underfoot or making a mess in the next room. Is it possible that you use tactics to keep your kids occupied that your wife doesn’t want to make a regular routine part of their day? I also think men tend to be better about focusing on one task at a time, and women tend to multi-task. This is often a necessity as a mom of young children, but it does slow us down. Finally, there is a difference between staying home with your kids for a couple hours at a time and being home with them all day every day. I’m not sure how to articulate exactly what that difference is, but it is definitely there. It may be that your wife just isn’t using her time wisely, or maybe she needs help learning how to be more organized. Remember, though – quite often the most important things we get done during the day are the intangible things that no one can see.

        • Sabrina says:

          I agree with you completely! I stay home with my two little ones, and multi-task all day long. The house is usually a mess by the time my husband gets home, and he can walk around and clean up the house in about 15 minutes. It’s nice that he cleans, too, but at the same time a little frustrating because I have been cleaning all day long! Unfortunately, I am more of a Mary, and my husband is the Martha…or would like me to be a Martha…he doesn’t understand why I dont get everything accomplished in one day. Maybe one day, or a few, he can stay home with the kids :0)

          • Roberta says:

            One of the things I notice in most of these comments where the husband wants more of a Martha, is a bit of a lack of concern for what is a priority to the husband. I wonder if you ladies ‘ask’ him. Also, if your children are constantly making messes and you aren’t planning to have them cleaned up by the time your husband comes home, you aren’t properly teaching your children. It is not beneath a man to help his wife with the kids and house…we are to each serve one another. But, it is not beneath a woman to cater to her husband’s needs as his helpmate either. If he needs a quiet and orderly home when he comes home, make that a priority of your day. Stop making excuses and discipline yourself and the children to respect the father of the home, and in turn when he realizes how much you desire to honor him, he will NEED to keep it coming and will bestow love on you. Corrie Ten Boom (if you don’t know who she is, look her up–wonderful woman, never married) said, “God gives dying grace on dying days.” Or, in other words, God gives grace for what He allows in our days. He provides grace to serve one another because it is His command. So, whether you are home all day, or work outside the home, you can know that He is providing you all you need to please Him.

    • Kimberly says:

      Nikki,
      Years ago I clipped out a comic strip of a wife with 4 children (maybe under 6?) at home. The house looked like a tornado had hit and when the husband got home, he asked, “What happened?” She calmly replied, “You know how you ask me what I do all day? Today I didn’t do it!” That helped me a LOT when my 2 children were younger & I worked from my home. If that DOESN’T help, leave HIM with them ALL DAY sometime & let him SEE what all needs to be done in ONE DAY to keep it “presentable”. I’ll bet he’ll change his attitude pretty quick!

  3. Alyson Davenport says:

    But try to be a Mary in a world of Marthas. That will get you alot of looks. That is probably why there are so many Marthas, I guess they feel superior. My house is usually a mess and Im okay with it. As long as my baby is safe and fed, I am fed and bathed I am pretty happy. If you visited (you Marthas) my house you would give me “that look”. You know the one. Stop judging the Marys and talk to them and then maybe you could be like us. We really are pretty happy laid back people and are husbands are pretty happy that we dont nag them much. OUr house is a wreck but we dont mind and we enjoy our lives. So come to the dark side because we have better (if not homemade from scratch! cookies :)

  4. Sharon says:

    Diane,
    I have learned this lesson the hard way over the past 25 years. Changing from Martha to Mary takes time but is worth the effort. I’ve found out also that less is more in a lot of ways. And having mom/wife less stressed, more happy and just loving on the family is so much better for all! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your own struggle.

    Speaking of Christmas – this one just past I sent no cards, went from a 9 foot tree to a 4 foot tree and used half the decorations. What happened? Christmas still came and the kids still loved it and I was so much happier and not exhausted trying to keep up with my own expectations.

  5. Army wife says:

    For awhile I was a Martha. I loved the way my kitchen would sparkle, how clean the living room was, but all this happened after dinner and while my husband and the kids were relaxing. I was the one doing all the cooking, cleaning, and laundry. I became resentful, that put distance between me and my husband. That distance damaged our sexual relationship and we went from several times a week to a few times a month. We were tense, short with each other, short with the kids, and unhappy. After several fights over nothing, we talked it out realizing the problem. We decided that as long as everyone is clean, fed, clean clothes (and the house doesn’t look bad enough for CPS to come in and freak out) we were fine. He doesn’t care that the house isn’t always spotless, at the end of the day he wants to eat, play with the kids and put them to bed. Afterwards, he wants to sit on the couch and relax with me, not sit on the couch and watch TV alone. He wants me more than a spotless house. My husband said, we have bigger problems. He’s right, as the wife of an active duty Army Soldier, we have a lot to worry about, long days, short nights, phone calls in the middle of the night, phone calls on the weekends, and the dreaded deployment looming over our heads. Saturday mornings, we clean the whole house top to bottom and it stays that way for at least a few days! We are happier, our sex life is incredible, and we are laughing again. I am fortunate to have a loving husband who is understanding of how exhausting it is to care for two boys under the age of two all day long and then help with homework of our older girls. He’d take a Mary over a Martha any day.

  6. Heidi says:

    I am a Martha and am proud to be a Martha. I know Jesus pointed out that Martha should be more like Mary, taking time to visit with Him. BUT everytime I hear that story, I side with Martha. If Mary would have helped her finish the chores, then they both could have enjoyed Jesus’ company. You know dinner doesn’t cook itself and unless you can afford a full-time servant, you have to stay on top of chores. I know going to bed with the floors unswept or dishes in the sink won’t kill me, but waking up to a clean house is much more relaxing than having to wash out a coffee cup before I have my first cup of coffee! I work full time and have two small children. If I didn’t stay on top of the chores, they would become overwhelming. And I like planning extravant holidays and birthday celebrations!

    • Rhonda says:

      This is just speculation, but there is a possibility that Mary was going to help Martha after Jesus left. I know many ppl who clean up after the company has left, because they want to enjoy the company w/no interruptions.

    • Josh says:

      I would be concerned to find myself siding against Jesus. His judgment on this matter was really clear – ‘she hath chosen the better part’

  7. Cheri says:

    I’m naturally a ‘Mary’ type person, but as my family grows I’m finding it harder to avoid being a ‘Martha’ imitator. I love beauty and order so it is hard to let go and live in a house that is overrun with toys and dropped cereal.
    Priorities are definately the key. I have to remind myself that the kids are only small for a little while and I don’t want to miss out on them now for the sake of my reputation. It is also a good motivator to teach them how to help me themselves.

    Have you ever wondered what would have happened if Martha had gone to Mary and said she hated missing out on Jesus’ talk, but that they would have to go hungry if supper wasn’t started soon? Or if Martha had asked Jesus to come out to the kitchen to talk so she could listen in too?
    Martha’s mindset was too small. It was either be useful in the kitchen like a good woman should or be lazy and above her station with the men.
    I most appreciate this story when I feel guilty for getting the day going quickly because my Bible reading is so fascinating!

  8. Sabrina says:

    I love this! I am a mom of a 2 year old and an 8 month old, as well as 3 dogs and 3 cats (It’s a zoo here!), and recently became a stay at home mom. I have this internal list of things I need to do (sometimes, the list makes it to a piece of paper) but it is never-ending. I end up not accomlishing much at all, because I have SO MUCH to do that I end up doing a little bit of everything. This article is a great reminder to get rid of the distractions and focus on what’s important!

  9. Rhonda says:

    Sounds like Roberta doesn’t have any kids. Otherwise she’d know dealing w/things kids do are not “excuses”, but reality & also notice that you can’t reply to her comment.

  10. angela Moore says:

    In this instance, Mary had chosen the better thing – to spend time at Jesus’ feet. However, that doesn’t mean that as women, we should neglect the duties and responsibilities that we have been given.. you CAN have a clean house with small children. I think people who hate housework (I am one of them, most days), use this story as an excuse for our laziness…which is clearly not endorsed, if you read the entire Bible. You have to take the entire Bible’s message, and not just pick out one thing to justify another.

    This article makes a wonderful point, that we women place way too many expectations on ourselves, with grandiose ideas to perfection. Not everyday will our home be spotless and look like a glossy photo from Better Homes & Gardens, but we need to keep everything in the right perspective, examine our priorities, and be honest with ourselves and what we can realistically accomplish. It’s tough to admit we can’t do it all…but we can’t do it all. The sooner we acknowledge this, rely upon the strength of the Lord to do what He is willing for us to do, and put loving God and loving others first, and seeking His Kingdom and obeying his words – which means not being lazy and neglect being the “keeper of our homes and loving our husbands and caring for our children”, the more peace we will be able to receive in our daily lives.

    The problem with our society, is that people are so busy scurrying around being Martha’s… if we would just have a Mary Mentality throughout our day, doing everything that we must do as a living sacrifice to our Lord with kingdom purpose, we would be able to achieve in Christ, more than we ever could before. Put God and his Kingdom first, and it will be amazing what He can do when we submit our plans to his.

  11. chris says:

    actually in most cases these things exhaust the husbands. he will end up getting stressed by deadlines he never set, worn out by work he never chose to do, and expected to do things he never thought were necessary. These Marthas dont all run doing this stuff alone….no….most of them start delegating as if the stuff is as important to everyone else as to them, when every hat shaped piece of leather is cut out FOR THE MOM who is the only one who cares

  12. Bill says:

    All this talk of Moms at home and even stay at home Dads, but one line in this blog that convicted my heart and I feel needs to be pointed out:

    “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.”

    I know I have this struggle, and I know many other men that do as well; many of them end up on our couch as part of our marriage mentoring ministry. So to all you working people (men and women) out there: take these words to heart. I’m sure your kids would rather have an engaged parent than another new toy; and I know your spouse would rather have you home for dinner than another new pair of shoes.

    Yes we have to work; life costs money. But let’s make sure we’re putting everything in the proper perspective and priority: 1) God, 2) spouse, 3) children, 4) everything else (including job, ministry, and hobbies.)

  13. Jeannie says:

    Wow!! You have read my mind on this article. I have been going in circles in my mind, the old ping pong game in my head, and I don’t even play ping pong!! Anyway, I am newly married and my husband has been a devout bachelor for 15 years and the house and yard shows it. His priorities were neither the house or the yard. It’s been golf and his 16 year old son and his two pomeranian dogs. It’s taken me about 8 months to get everything just livable again let alone fixed up like a home.AHHH!! From your article, I have GOT to learn how to ask for help and let some things go. You have really explained to me how to start to get myself out of the “Crazy Cycle” with the house and yard, and have more energy at the end of the day for him.
    BIG THANKS! Jeannie

  14. Colleen says:

    I have many thoughts on this subject, and have struggled with resentment over the years of being married to a man who is (mostly) a perfectionist, wanting the house neat and tidy, clean, well-kept, healthy food prepared for him etc. I’ve worked full time from a home office for 10 years with two children to take to school, prepare lunches for, do laundry, grocery shopping, prepare meals, and yes, clean the house. My husband has only to drive to work, come home, sit down and relax every evening while I run my head off. And I’m much more of a Mary type, (although I’ll admit I go overboard on holidays and birthday parties, which I fully-realize as my own neurosis…). I tend to be more cluttered, I like to knit and do gardening, etc. to live in the moment, and enjoy the now as much as I can. But it seems to me that some (and I mean SOME) men have come to expect their wives to earn money AND take care of the household in its entirety, and this just isn’t fair. Women’s liberation only works if men pick up some of the slack and most men just aren’t prepared to do that. If I could stay home and take care of house and children, I would consider that my job, and life would be simple. It’s when we are expected to do BOTH that it becomes completely overwhelming. I think it’s a matter of being evenly yoked, to some degree, in that we choose our partners wisely; partners that we can live with peacefully and fairly, and with whom we can come to a reasonable working agreement–however that works best for the family, whether the husband stays home with the kids or the wife does, or they both work and share in chores—-or better yet hire help with the house work!

    Peace.

  15. Amy Heilman says:

    FINALLY a wise woman has said it! (No offense Mark :) Diane, preach it girl! Thank you for being real and sharing with women where our priorities need to be!
    Saving our energies for our husband and kids is staying kingdom minded!
    Thinking in this realm has released such a huge stress and burden from my life!
    Thank you!! May more Martha’s see the light :)

  16. Marianne says:

    I am so glad that you added that the Proverbs Woman had many hired hands. I have had to remind others of that myself. However, I have a husband and 2 sons that love to have a clean home, and do very little to help. When my 13 year old was at the ripe old age of 2, he came around the corner, into the Living Room where there was a bit of a mess, and with hands on hips said, “Mom! It sure is a mess in here!” I’m pretty fussy about things and have often times compared myself to the infamous “Martha”. Much to my dismay. I too feel as if I have missed-out on so much with my kids. And yet they will be the first ones to say something if things get out of order. Yes, I realize that most of this is my own fault. Now what?

    • Kimberly says:

      Marianne,
      I saw a comic strip years ago about a mother going about the house picking up clothes, dishes, etc. & “grousing” about having to be the one to do it all. The last panel showed her “shooing” her tween-age son out of his room so SHE could clean it! Perhaps THAT was part of the problem—she’d TRAINED them to think SHE had to do it all! If we teach our children that THEY need to clean up after themselves & HELP out with household chores, it IS much easier! I have a 26-year old developmentally disabled son who knows how to sort laundry, fold towels, match socks, put away dishes from the drainer, help set table, help me get everything I need for cooking & helps bring in & put away groceries. It took YEARS to teach him how to do those things, but the time was well-invested, as now, I don’t even have to ASK him to do them—he just pitches in & works JOYFULLY to “help mom”! I’ve marveled at how “normal” teens don’t do half the things he can & will do. It’s all about taking the time to TEACH! So you “newer” moms, out there, take a little extra time to teach your children to “help mommy”—you’ll ALL be happier in the end! (And I KNOW that SOME men/boys “screw up” on purpose so you don’t ask them to help again; just KEEP ASKING!)

  17. Linda says:

    Kids should have chores that contribute to the sanity in the home. The challenge is for mom and dad to be on the same page and consistent about backing each other up when the kids fail to do their part. There should be a consequence of an additional chore (preferrably one of mom or dad’s). Teaching kids to be responsible starts a lot earlier than most parents realize. Teach the kids to put dirty dishes in the dishwasher, so that the sink is always clear. Always unload the dishwasher as soon as it finishes. My kids are grown, but we had a routine of watching Magic School bus, then everyone in the house hit their chore list. Chores are not so lonely when everyone is doing them at the same time. We like music to motivate the energy. As soon as chores are done, we do something fun. Plus we fell great about what we’ve accomplished.

  18. Leanne says:

    Hi Diane,
    I really like your work and I think that it is imperative that women and men have to work out their everyday chores yet I think that in this scripture Jesus was making the point that Martha had chosen to be “cumbered” by the worldly stuff. Here is The Son of God at her house to teach and preach wouldn’t she want a front row seat? I get that she was honoring Him by having the party at her house where He went often but her remarks about Mary brought out her own issues that He rebuked her for. He was making the point that there is more about this life besides cleaning and cleaning. Being a disciple is His utmost for all of us-knowing Him will always bring His approval. Both women had a choice to make. I believe both of them were hard at it until He got there and then Mary just went to hear what The Master was preaching. Martha didn’t take it that seriously and made it into strife. Jesus made Martha aware that she had some issues to work on. Everyone heard the conversation and I am sure they all got the message.In John 11:3 it says, Jesus loved Martha and her sister. Never mentions Mary’s name. He knows we all have “issues” to deal with but everything has to do with our heart. Jesus loved both of them and their brother Lazarus. He only rebukes those He loves. Put The Lord first above all else-oh I think I heard that before.

  19. Alcide Bouchard says:

    Thank you for sharing insight that can change lives and bring families closer together.

    My Mother kept a tidy home with ten children, no automatic washer, sewing to do, growing a large garden, canning of preserves seasonally, no disposable diapers, no microwave, not even running water in the early years. Of course she didn’t work away from home, but she also didn’t make excuses, and my Dad didn’t either, for missing a deadline. They honoured God in their work and leisure and in how they treated one another. It wasn’t magic. They simply taught us how to work! They taught us the value of work. That work and the ability to get things done are a blessing from God. Neither of them would have dreamt of blogging about the other. I lived with them for 18 years and never even witnessed so much as a quarrel between the two of them. I only found out in my late 30’s that at one point they considered separation. For the good of the children they decided to put their differences aside.

    We are tempted on every side by a lifestyle that will supposedly make us happy! All we really need is the love of God and family / friends, shelter, food and clothing. We work and fill our lives trying to maintain appearances (stuff) to please people. I understand trying to please those we love, but all too often we try to impress people we don’t even like! I was like that for a while, and then I realized that I won’t have more time later to do what’s most important, and that opportunities may slip through my fingers if I let them. A few things I’ve learned:

    Take a step back and prioritize while your kids are still young.

    Create some quiet time each and every day to seek God while he may be found.

    Consider carefully what is really needed; make sure those things are taken care of before you consider extras.
    Recycle the flyers without looking at them. Don’t read magazines either. They are great time wasters that create unnecessary wants in you. Examine your feelings next time you desire something that you can do without. That desire was created by something. TV commercials maybe?

    PRACTICE SAYING NO to the things and people who waste your time. Say no to that promotion. Tell your prideful selfish side that you are doing it for your family and I guarantee that you will feel very proud of that decision.

    Tell your family that you decided again and again to stay home in spite job offers (speaking from experience, I run a business from home). There’s nothing in this world that will tell them you love them as much as choosing to be with them. What’s more, the people you’ve said no to will respect you for it! Have the NO ready for when you need it. You won’t regret practicing this. Make up your mind in advance, because some people can be very persuasive.

    All we really need to be is who God made us. His will for us is that we put nothing between Him and us. When we reach that place of intimacy with Him then the emptiness inside which we’ve been trying to fill with stuff will be filled.

    Is your time management bringing glory to God?

    People have less spare time than ever because they complicate many things. If that’s truly bringing you joy then great, but take the time to see how you’re affecting those around you. Is that lifestyle bringing joy to those you love?

  20. Gail Whitear says:

    It is so amaizing to read this today, and God has really answered my prayers. While i would not regard myself as a super super mom, I would say that I like my house and my life witnin it to have good orderly direction and that is by ensuring it is clean and the meals are cooked and the biscuits are baked etc. I work too, so fitting it all in has been a challenge to say the least. Lately I have been having problems with my son. he is 4 years old and has been really acting up and responding very poorly to any discipline that i dish out, which i generally dished out inbetween cooking and cleaning. Well the results of my discipline have proven to be so futile and the result has been me getting agrier and angrier at him and then me feeling like a complete failure as a mother. Last night i prayed to God while I sat on my sons bed while he was sleeping, and i said to God that i feel like I am failing my son, and what am i doing wrong? i prayed for an answer and for guidance and for forgiveness for my anger. While i was watching TV a thought came to me that I am not spending enough one on one time with my son, even though i am always about, my time is not concentrated enough, and he really does need that, and I know that he does, but I realise now that I have placed far more importance on the asthetics in my life ( my home). God has reminded me that good orderly direction within the family unit it far more important than a clean house and investing my time in the mental, spiritual and emotional well being of my children is what really counts. Reading your article today made me realise that while last night I thought that “I” was thinking about the solution to my problem, it was really God telling me the solution. God is so wonderful and very often we realise that the solutins to our problems are far more easier than we think, and that without God it is us that creates the chaos and complications of our lives. I am so excited to really focus on being a Mary rather than a Martha and I think my sone will be happuier for it. God Bless to you all and thank you for your wonderful article. Gail Whitear, South Africa, Durban

  21. Maria says:

    I loved your Less Martha, More Mary. I had been a Martha for years. I am now a merry Mary. Expectations? What expectations? Everybody, get a life! Health, love and family is what matters, not a spotless house and a 5 course meal.

  22. Bev says:

    How encouraging for young women of today to read this article. I am overwhelmed as I see today’s mom trying to balance home, job, church. I was fortunate to be a stay at home mom and still found the responsibilities tremendous. I didn’t get a lot of the stuff done, plus we didn’t have the financial resources to do all the fancy birthday parties so that brought it’s own kind of pressure. I had to be creative with less money but my kids enjoyed the efforts I made. When it comes down to it, the kids don’t want stuff they want us. The important thing is relationship. Sometimes I forgot that and had to be reminded.

  23. Leslie says:

    I have been a Martha most of my life. I have always worked either full-time or part-time, sometimes three part-time jobs while raising our son, taking care of my husband’s family who all got sick and we helped clean their houses, sorted their stuff and sold their houses when they passed on, plus for three years took care of his dad when he had cancer (cleaned his apartment, did his shopping, laundry, took him to doctor appointments, etc. while working three part-time jobs and taking care of our house and son and very involved in church and jobs).

    My house has never been totally immaculate as I am a sanguine, a clutterer, and love to have my projects out where I can see them to work on, but it isn’t really dirty either. However, I did the laundry, dishes, yard work, homeschooled our son for awhile, held several positions at church (taught Sabbath school for six years, sang in choir, etc.). Plus I have a lot of hobbies and enjoy being artsy/craftsy. My husband has diabetes and tends to come home from work and sit because his blood sugars are high and he has low energy.

    Being a type A personality (go-getter) and type B personality (caretaker/nurturer) I burned out. I ended up with Chronic Fatigue/Fibromyalgia and I had to stop being a Martha. I have my doctor’s permission to nap and do so 2-3 times a day just to get through the day. I also ended up so tired that our marriage got put on hold, we almost lost our marriage because my priorities were skewed, but now we have our priorities straight (after his family all passed away) and my husband helps around the house. I learned to say get back to me when asked to do something or better yet, NO. If I can’t decide, I know the answer is NO. If I don’t say yes, someone else will come forward and do it. For my health I no longer can do all the things I thought were so important. I no longer send Christmas cards (although I love receiving them) and some years my husband sends them out. If the laundry sits on the couch for a week, then it gets used up anyway. I used to love chopping wood, mowing the lawn, gardening. Now I am happy to go for a ride on the Goldwing with my husband and get out with him in the fresh air and sunshine. I spend more time soaking my sore muscles in the bathtub with a good book or taking a nap than buzzing around doing everything that I used to enjoy doing.

    I was resentful that I got no help, and that was not good either. I am happier, we are happier, our marriage is happier now that I am not doing everything for everyone.

  24. melissa says:

    I have really grown in this area for the last little while. I have had trouble keeping up with my husbands expectations and being resentful of his lack of help was an excuse not to do things. Also, I we have four children and I struggled with a sub-clinical post-partum depression after each were born that lingered. That is something men dont understand. How sometimes as women hormones get involved and our internal motivation just leaves us in those times of depression. For stay at home moms things become terribly monotonous. A year ago I started working part time at a daycare that my friend has in her home and was able to take my then 8 month old daughter with me. My friend taught me how to have structure and routine as well as how to find delight in the small things in life and plan for fun. As women we are not mentored enough how to do this, especially if our moms were “Marthas”, then we have issues and can’t live up to those internal expectations and think if I cant do it perfectly I wont start. My friend taught me that sometimes good enough is good enough and scheduled a tea time in the afternoon…something we look forward to after the lunch routine. I NEED this job in my life. It is only four hours a day but when I do this job I actually keep my home much better, spend more time with hubby, and schedule more family fun. Then things are managable enough that if I ask hubby for help I get it. If he looks around and its overwhelming he wont help. How I communicate that I need help is also important. I need to request a specific job, then explain why it needs to be done NOW and then say what we will be able to do together after it is done. That can be anything from watching a movie to giving him a backrub to having sex. It works!

  25. Fatima de Jesus says:

    Thanks for this much needed advice. I too need to become more like Mary and less like Martha……

  26. Leia says:

    Ladies,
    I would recommend all of you to look at http://www.flylady.net! This is how a Martha can turn into Mary!!! I am not a born organized person and I would try to be Martha and fret over my home! I am now a Mary and can spend more time with my hubby and son without stressing about my house!! I hope this helps! Flylady is a blessing to me and my family!! God Bless you all!!

  27. Gordana says:

    Somehow mysteriously Tomorrow the mess will reappear but will my 3 yr old ever be 3 again. Or my 7yr old be 7. you can’t bring back lost time missed out with your kids or husband. This week my baby turns 3. What happened to the 1st and 2nd year of her life?? What’s the point I fret over a spotless house if I ive just lost my husband over the anxiety of what’s beyond my control? When will there ever be anything left for him or the kids if I don’t even have any left overs? There will always be too much to do. But time will not always be around. Time is too precious. Dont THey deserve our everything. Intimacy is what they desire. Intimacy with God.. everything else falls rightly in its place. The less important things will somehow sort themselves out. Time is short. In the grand scheme of it all, what will you be wishing you had spent more time on when time is up!!!!

  28. Jewel says:

    I am blown away by this article…its just speaks to me directly.I have been a real Martha all my life and even into my married life.I now have seen the light and promise to kick off my shoes and sip on mint tea even though the kitchen floor not swept or the kids toys litter the entire sitting room…what insight:)

  29. Bonnie says:

    Think of the context of the story. Jesus and 12 disciples visit Mary and Martha’s home. They probably were dusty, hungry and thirsty. Hospitality would provide washing of feet and something to drink immediately. Then, Mary chose to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to him. Martha chose to get the meal for this large group started – a pretty big undertaking even if they had servants. I believe Jesus comment to Martha could be interpreted as, ‘Martha, you are so busy with the preparations, if you would just sit with me first and listen for a while like Mary, be assured that we will have dinner in a little while. The emphasis is on taking time with Jesus as first priority. If we do this then He will equipt us to meet the needs of our family. I am totally convicted with this passage today and know if I apply it consistently, our home will have less strife and a whole lot more love :)

  30. becky says:

    I understand re simplify, but then when you visit another someone’s home the husband / kids/ mother-in-law, etc. start to compare and say things that make alot us women feel inferior. “Oh, her house was so nicely decorated!” as if to imply “unlike what you do, Mom!” Or comments are made- especially by the men (stupid!) re another woman having a beautiful bustline and looking so young- but you have been too busy supporting your family to have had breast augmentation. Or you spent the $ for your kid’s shoes instead of some miracle beauty creme. So I would just urge family members to support the mom/wife and be sensitive to comments that come across as demoralizing.

  31. Rebecca says:

    AMEN!!. Do I have your permission to share this with my MOPS group this fall? I thing there need to be stickers/plaques made for each mom when she leaves the hospital with her new baby proclaiming “Excuse the mess, the family is making memories.” Kids remember happy moms and not clean houses. and for Grandma asking about christmas spirit, did she work a full-time job when she was in her Martha-mode? Remind her that she didn’t vaccuum in her pearls like June Cleaver, either, and that there were shortcuts in her day and I’m sure she took a few herself every now and then. Thank you for writing this – i needed it and i know for a fact that there are millions of other moms out there who do, too. Thank you so much!

  32. Vicki says:

    I love the Less Martha/more Mary idea; HOWEVER, it is my husband that demanded the Perfect House, the Perfect Holiday (like HIS mom did), etc. After 32 years of marriage, I am giving him more Mary and less Martha. Took him awhile to adjust.

  33. pebbles says:

    I am a Mary through and through,and I am soooo okay with it. My husband could care less if the house was clean, in fact he wouldnt really notice if i spent 8 hours cleaning it. so why waste the efforts. i would rather be socializing with guests than in the kitchen cleaning up after them :)

  34. Mike says:

    Our neighbor is very active in church and rarely misses a meeting. A few months ago after her husband of 20 years left, she came over and asked: “What do you clean toilets with?” There has to be a balance in the Martha/Mary and the ability to understand which is the priority at any given time.

    My wife and I, after 35 years, continue to “discuss” household chores and duties. I will be the first to admit, she does more than I do and also does a much better job in most cases. I need reminders of things that need to be done and sometimes not verbal reminders. She’s learned that if she wants me to fold laundry within her timeframe, it’s better to just drop the whole load in my lap rather than ask me to empty the dryer. This way there is no confusion in her desires.

    Her “Mary” is the same way. If we need to discuss family matters or have a scriptural discussion, she will either acknowledge my request to do so and schedule a proper time and place (if not right then) or will get my attention (turn off the TV)and let me know it’s time to talk.

    Things are perfect by no means. Timing is everything…especially in the last two minutes of a close game!

  35. Warren says:

    I have been reading the comments on this site and my heart has started to hurt. First, we all have different personalities and you have to remember that you did not marry yourself. You married who God intended you to, which in his design will make you a better person.

    This reason, I am a clean and neat person – my wife is not, was one of the main reasons my wife and I separated. We have two little girls and it drove me crazy that when I came home from work the house was a wreck. How could that be? When I would stay at home and allow my wife some my needed time alone for the day I could accomplish so much around the house with our daughters in tow and having them help me. I allowed this to effect our relationship, I allowed the devil to use our differences to divide us. Don’t get me wrong there were other reasons our relationship started to fail…we didn’t pray together for one. But this was a big one. After six months apart, getting back together was not easy, and the cleaning of the house was a big part of the conversations that ensued.

    I knew who I married. I did, it was no surprise to me that my wife is not an organized or completely neat person, why did I think that when we got married I could miraculously change her? In one of the numerous conversations I let it be known what I needed from her. And she said I will step up my game, but I know that I can only reach this one point and if you need it to be at a higher mark, you have to help me get it there.

    I have helped her manage her time better, BUT I have also allowed God to work through her to help me understand that the ultra clean and organized house that my mom raised me (read – forced me) to have, is not all that life is about.

    Life is about playing with my girls, spending time with my wife, enjoying life, and above all Praising our Lord.

    Understand that a marriage is a compromise on both parts. Talk about your expectations and understand that they aren’t all going to be met (because you didn’t marry yourself).

    And remember to keep what a previous person who commented in mind:

    God, spouse, children and then you. If you keep that relationship with God trust me he will help with that order and your perspective on the cleanliness of your house.

  36. Amy says:

    There’s an awful lot of words in defense of selfishness/laziness here in these responses. Repent and submit.

  37. Tammy says:

    Thanks for this article. It came at the right time. I was feeling really bad because I am not keeping up with housework. I work a full-time and part-time job and I don’t feel like anything is getting done.

  38. Deborah P says:

    Something our pastor told us years ago, “You need to lower your expectations and increase your appreciation.” So many times we expect things from our spouse that they are just unable to fulfill to our expectations. Choose to look at all the good and positive things your spouse does and appreciate them for that. Then choose to overlook the things that they don’t do and if it bothers you that much, do it yourself.

  39. Sherry Bunn says:

    First may I say how thankful I am for Mark [and his "helpers"]. Thank you for following God’s calling. Speaking frank and direct is so needed in our time in history.
    Now, in response to “Less Martha & More Mary”… I am fortunate to have a wonderful husband that likes me to be “more like Mary” [even though he loves a clean house, etc. he would rather have me standing or sitting by him.
    My concern [now that I am a great grandparent] I see so many younger husbands that want their wives to “be superwoman”. In our family there are some where the husband & wife both have full time jobs, 2 & 3 children and when they arrive home from work, the husband sits to rest while the wife heads to the kitchen to cook the dinner, help kids with homework, baths, etc. Then housework. When she complaints, she is considered to be nagging. In most of these cases the husband’s mother did not work out of the home and as a child he was use to his mother doing everything at home, etc…. that’s was the “woman’s job”. To these young wives… their “Mary time” will have to wait. What can be shared with them and/or their husband’s to help them see the “imbalanced thinking” they have in this area of their marriage?

  40. jacky says:

    i am a young lady in kenya and i am scheduled to be married next year in april, i love to watch mark’s seminars coz i think that they are funny and look at marriage from a very interesting point of view.

    i love my fiance very much and i am sure that he will make me very happy. he has an 8am to 5pm job which he really loves but sometimes(read: most) of the times they can be called back to work when the network has a problem because he is an IT administrator and the system must function at all times.

    we share very little time if any because nearly 99% of his day, an weekend is at work. sometimes he has to travel to others provinces where the company operates and mostly the visits are not planned for, they are abrupt as soona as need arises, he’s boss will just call and he will leave whatever he is doing whether we were in a church service, in the middle of a meal, visiting his parents or even out on a date which we may have planned for weeks.

    we are looking to join in holy matrimony so for us, sex is not an option until marriage and neither of us can spend the night in the other person’s house.

    in our culture and both our families, he has to ask for my parents’ permission to marry me even if i had already consented and must pay dowry/bride price as a sign of gratitude to my parents before they allow us to wed.

    i worry that since i have finished my undergraduate at local university in the same field as he and is currently doing my Cisco certifications, i will most probably be employed in the same department as him and we will never see each other even though we will be married .

    oh my, my fiance has just walked into my house after three months of him never having time to visit, bye ,let me tell him about the male version of marry and martha. thanks everyone

  41. Boots says:

    Matha madness, what an appropriate, short, strong words for the woman who does the opposite of simple, effortless work.

    It does ruin our prioreties, objective when we add more and more things to otherwise simple need. Your example of preparation for a part fr the invitation,
    Five-tiered layer cake to food is so glaring, mia culpa.

    Thank you for the eye opening insights. I want to be more of a Mary and less of a Martha.

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