If today wasn’t the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter those who pray the Liturgy of the Hours would find the first reading in the Office of Readings to be from Proverbs 31:10-31. The reading is, the title tells us, “in praise of the perfect wife.”
It’s an interesting reading. On the one hand, it makes the husband almost appear as a gigolo, letting his wife work hard while he “is prominent at the city gates as he sits with the elders of the land.”
We know, of course, that the husband didn’t just sit around talking all day. He was out fishing, he was building things, he was tending livestock. He carried his own weight, and he protected his family.
And what did his wife do? She’s equally hardworking and industrious, picking out a field and acquiring it; “from her earnings she plants a vineyard. . . she enjoys the profit from her dealings,” she provides for the poor and doesn’t worry about “her household when it snows–all her charges are doubly clothed. She makes her own coverlets; fine linen and purple are her clothing.”
She “makes garments and sells them. . . she is clothed with strength and dignity and laughs at the days to come . . . she watches over the affairs of her household and doesn’t eat the bread of idleness.”
And how does her family respond? “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband, too, praises her.”
She takes care of domestic activity, not just in tidying the house but in making cloth and clothing, in investing money, in providing for the poor and her own household. She plans ahead.
What we can derive from this reading is that dual-income families are viewed as the norm. “Acclaim her for the work of her hands,” Prov. 31:31 tells us.
But what about today’s woman who stays home to home school her children, or to be there when she is needed? Have you noticed how often this same wife is working part-time, perhaps as a web designer, a writer, a travel agent, a bookkeeper, a teacher? And when the kids leave the house, the wife is back working full-time.
In one way or the other, “she brings (the family) profit, not loss, all the days of her life.”
She should indeed be acclaimed for her work, and her deeds should be praised.