I am writing this as I wait for my precious Papa Bear to arrive home from a hard day at work, as I am sure so too will be many women that are reading this. It's almost the end of the day - my chores are done, our evening meal is almost ready, and our home is mostly neat and clean and peaceful. While Papa Bear is out at work, I'm at home working too - my job is to keep our house, to organise, oversee and maintain it, and to ensure that everyone is well fed, clothed and cared for. As a wife, this is my calling - and it is one that I am so happy to have!
One of the important but sometimes overlooked aspects of the role of a woman at home is to ensure that when her husband arrives home from work, he is glad to be there! It's part of our duty as God's daughters to honour our husbands by providing them with a joyful welcome when they return from their hard day's labour, and to demonstrate respect for him by ensuring that the environment he returns home to reflects the fruits of his labours and his role as the head of the family - a clean, well cared for home with obedient children and a wife who is overjoyed to see him!
I know it may sound like a tall order - if you have got a houseful of children, not very much room, physical ailments, many concerns on your mind, then it can be hard to cast all these practical issues aside to focus only on your husband's needs. But it is vitally important that we do so. We have to offer up our burdens to our Saviour and pray that He will give us the necessary strength and resources to fulfill our role in this way, for it is God's command that as our husband's Helpmeet, we are to:-
"... submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body". (Ephesians 5: 22-23).
We demonstrate this by being supportive to our husbands - working hard to create for them a pleasant, nurturing, harmonious environment at home, through which we can demonstrate our gratitude for the home he has provided for us, and our desire to honour our marriage vows by fulfilling our role, as commanded by God.
There are many small ways in which we can ensure that our husbands have a happy welcome when they arrive home from work (or any other time!). Here are some of the things that I've done over the years, which have helped to strengthen our marriage by ensuring that my husband feels honoured and adored when he walks through the front door every evening!
- The most obvious one, of course, is to ensure that the house itself is welcoming! If he returns to a chaotic, uncared-for environment, then he will instantly feel as if he isn't welcome. Keeping the house tidy is the most basic aspect of our role as homemakers, and one that needs to be conquered early on in marriage if we desire to live in a pleasing and peaceful environment. Of course, it doesn't need to be fancy - our home certainly isn't - just clean and tidy, and ideally, warm and well-lit. It's easy for me now that our children are grown to keep on top of the housework. But when they were wee, I use to have a quick 10 or 20 minute tidy-up through the house, late afternoon, so that when Papa Bear did arrive home from work, even if the house had been in a muddle during the day, it didn't look that way when he got home!
- To achieve this when our children were really wee, I use to give them their tea and bathe them before Papa Bear arrived home from work. I would then set them down doing something peaceful (if they had not had any TV at all during the day, this might be the time when a suitable video was playing) and that way they were nicely quiet and calm, and I could quickly tidy up, before Papa Bear arrived. Even now, I'll still run round and just straighten things up, and, as in our home the kitchen is the first room that you go into when you walk through the door, I always make especially certain to have that room tidy, with all the evidences of food preparation put away. It also helps to create a nice welcome if there are delicious cooking aromas coming from the kitchen - we tend to eat quite soon after Papa Bear has arrived home from work (his job means that he expends a huge amount of energy each day, so he is always hungry when he gets home) so this is usually the case in our house - unless I've burned something! Eeek! Then I have to reach for the Febreeze ...
- Giving the cubs their tea separately when they were wee meant that Papa Bear then could spend time with them whilse I got the tea for us grown-ups on the table, and he would put them to bed while I did this, which was lovely for him, as he got to spend some special time with his children each day, and also meant that we then got a nice long evening together alone! Spending time together as a couple is a really important part of ensuring that your husband feels nurtured - all your attention is on him - and one way of doing this, for us, was to make sure that our children had an early bed-time (about 6 pm!) when they were small.
- As the cubs got older, of course, this needed to change, so then I would make tea for everyone at the same time, and then Papa Bear got to do the baths, while I washed up, and we put the children to bed together! Those were happy days - I think it really heped us to forge a strong sense of unity as a family, doing these things together. Having a routine was really important in those days. It meant I could organise everything so that all I had to think about when Papa Bear got home, was him! All the housework had been done earlier in the day, and I would prepare most of the meal before he got home too, so that it was almost ready for him as he arrived home, starving hungry after several hours of hard physical labour!
- This is when a slow-cooker becomes invaluable. Not only does it help to keep you free from the kitchen at that vital time when you have small children to get ready for bed, but it also means that if your husband is running late, the meal isn't spoiled. Slow cookers can keep food warming at a safe temperature for several hours after the meal is ready to eat, so I used mine a lot when the cubs were small, as it gave me more flexibility about when we actually ate - and they could eat their meal earlier, if necessary. I try to plan meals for the evening which don't have to be timed too carefully - nothing like soufflees or pan-fried things that must be served immediately after cooking. Things that can be left to warm are great when you can't be exactly sure what time you'll be eating, so this is often what we'll have.
- I know it is irritating when your husband is running late and doesn't let you know. But don't show your irritation when he does finally get home. Offer it up to God and instead be glad that he has got home at all - every day there are women who will wait for their husbands to get home - and they won't - through illness, accident or some other trauma. So treasure the fact that your husband has made it home safely - no matter how many hours late he is or how delicious the meal was that is now spoiled. Husbands are more important than food.
- When your husband does arrive home from work, be mindful that unlike you, he hasn't been able to pace his day according to his own timetable. He's probably had to work with other people, some whom he may perhaps not choose as companions, but who he has to work alongside regardless. The challenges of working outside the home are different to the ones we homekeepers experience. We need to be aware that when our husband walks through the door, his first desire isn't necessarily to hear all about our day. It is probably just to be able to sit down in peace and quiet for half an hour! I try to make sure that this is exactly what happens. It is much easier now, of course, but when the cubs were younger I did always try to keep them out of Papa Bear's way when he first got home for a while so that he could have a wash and then sit and read the newspaper, drink a cup of tea and just relax in peace.
- When we were homeschooling, I always liked to make sure that Papa Bear got to see what we had been doing during the day, so after tea and devotions, the cubs would do a wee "presentation" so that he could see their work! It might only be a worksheet or drawing, or a piece of reading aloud, but he always appreciated being able to keep up with what they were doing. It also meant he could have input into their schooling as he would be able to see how well they were keeping up with the curriculum and whether there were any changes to make, or areas we needed to work on.
- After the cubs were in bed, that would be the time when we could chat - it happens now of course, but usually as a whole family! When the children were small, I didn't want them to be around to hear any concerns or practical issues I needed to discuss with Papa Bear. I'd wait until they were in bed, and we were sitting relaxing in the living room and then would be the time to share about our days, and discuss any issues that came up. This meant - and still does - that we were in a calm and rested frame of mind to deal with anything difficult. And somehow, the difficult things don't seem so difficult, then!
- Finally - and I know this is one area where people have very different opinions - but to me, it is important - I do always try to make sure that I look my best when Papa Bear gets home from work. I want him to be glad that he's come home to me! I don't wear a headcovering when I'm at home, so after I've finished preparing the evening meal, I will go upstairs and freshen up - I'll put on some perfume, tidy my hair - and often I'll change my clothes too. I don't wear much make-up, but I freshen that up as well. It makes me feel lovely, and puts me in a nice frame of mind! If Papa Bear has bought me something new that he's not yet seen me in, I'll often put it on especially for when he gets home from work.
"But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God". (1 Corinthians 11:3).