When I asked my readers what they needed the most help with when it comes to motherhood, one word that came through time and again was clear:
“Balance between work and home.”
“Balance between being a wife and mom.”
“Balance as a wife, mom, homemaker and just being myself.”
“Balancing my time with God with all of the other demands.”
“Balancing it all and not burning out!”
I get it. Adulting is hard.
I think a lot of us have the myth in our heads about the “perfectly balanced woman.” She is always perfectly present and pleasant for her family, runs a tight ship of a home, always pleases her husband and of course does her work flawlessly and on time. Not to mention she is super-spiritual, has memorized the whole Bible and leads her joyful, obedient children in prayer throughout the day.
Mrs. Perfect probably runs a business while homeschooling 17 kids. And she never gets sick because of her all-natural medicine cabinet and fully stocked kitchen of organic whole foods and supplements. She also works out every day.
I might be getting carried away…but maybe not. You tell me.
There’s probably someone out there doing at least one of those things better than you. When you’re unable to keep up with that standard, does it make you feel…out of balance?
The Need to Compare
Hopefully you’re aware that comparison with other humans rarely ends well, and that this wife/mother/homemaker journey (and life in general) is a grace-filled path. So you know that, of course, no one is expecting you to be perfect.
Coming from a thoroughbred perfectionist, Ennegream 1 to the core, let me tell you: that mental shift towards grace is waaaaay easier said than done. I think many of us are drawn toward a standard to live up to. It’s kind of the way we’re wired.
What if there was a better role model than our puffed up view of our neighbor about how to be a realistically balanced woman? Maybe someone biblical?
Enter: Proverbs 31 woman.
Now, if you’re about to click away because that notorious chapter of Proverbs makes you feel inadequate and bad about yourself, then I want you to go ahead and click over to 10 Myths About the Proverbs 31 Woman and get those notions out of your head.
You good? Okay, let’s talk about her.
I personally don’t believe she was a literal living and breathing person; it’s more helpful to think about the principles her character upheld, as is true with the rest of the book of Proverbs. So what principles can we learn from her about how to live with this concept of balance, as we understand it in modern times?
I found five principles from the verses in Proverbs 31 that I think are very helpful in instructing us to shift our priorities and live more balanced lives as moms. Spoiler alert: if you’re looking for a quick-fix list of things to do differently, you might be disappointed. Proverbs 31 has a lot more to do with growing your character rather than hitting all the marks.
1. Fearing the Lord
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised (v. 30).
Hopefully this isn’t surprising to you: the foundation of a well-balanced life is a trusting relationship with God. The phrase “fears the Lord” can sound a little strange to modern ears, because we don’t want to be living under this sense of dread.
Think of it this way: do you like the sun? Of course you do; it brings life to everything around you and makes you feel warm. Yet if you’re smart, you also know to respect it. Don’t stare at it with the naked eye. Don’t hang out it its rays all day long. Appreciate its power, and enjoy its gifts.
In the same way, the woman who fears the Lord is respectfully aware of him as the one who gives all things. She laughs at the days to come (v. 25) because she knows that God is watching over each one. She doesn’t worry about being perfect because she doesn’t have to be.
We do things like devotionals and memorizing scripture because they remind us of this, not because we need to check them off our good girl checklist.
2. Prioritizing Your Marriage
Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life (v. 11–12).
Unless you’re a single mom, your marriage should be ranking pretty high when it comes to balancing your everyday priorities. I know that’s easier said than done. It also takes two to tango; the Proverbs 31 husband seems to be pouring all his love on her if he has full confidence in her and praises her highly.
There aren’t a lot of practical suggestions in these verses about how husbands and wives love each other; the point is that they simply do it. And personally, I believe that having a strong, unified marriage is one of the best things you can do for your family and home.
Far too often, it’s easy for the marriage relationship to fall between the cracks and only get attention when in crisis. Need some advice for making this happen? Check out Fighting for Your Marriage: 3 Tips for Busy and Exhausted Couples.
3. Intentionality with Homemaking
She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness (v. 27, see also 13–19).
Homemaking is a very broad topic and often the one that causes moms the most grief. Running a home well is a full time job and then some, and for most of us this is the area that can slip up when life gets overwhelming.
What’s interesting about these verses is that the woman is also running a business from her home. She probably doesn’t have time to fuss over the Pinterest-perfect birthday party because she’s attending to customers, on top of her other daily responsibilities.
How does she make it work? She’s very intentional with the way she spends her time and focuses on what’s most important.
That lesson has been one of the hardest for me to learn as a homemaker, yet one of the most powerful. With good planning and intentionality I can cut out the idle tasks that don’t matter, be efficient with my time and even delegate the tasks I don’t need to do myself.
Wondering where to get started with such a monumental mind shift? Try setting some goals: 5 Grace-Filled Goal-Setting Hacks for the Lazy Mom.
4. Treating Yourself with Dignity
She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come (v. 25)
As moms, we like to beat ourselves up. Not only do we not meet up to impossible expectations, but we don’t treat ourselves with enough dignity that we ever could.
As I discussed in Proverbs 31 myths, you might think that to be a great wife/mom/homemaker you need to constantly sacrifice sleep and rest, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. This idea that you have to run around like a crazy person to get everything done is a false modern expectation.
At the time Proverbs 31 was written, a godly woman would have followed the Sabbath, meaning she had at least one day a week to do absolutely no work. She also wouldn’t have had the constant bombardment of false light and electronics stimulating her body and mind to the point of mental and physical exhaustion every day. Life was much slower.
I don’t know that it’s helpful to wistfully long for the “slower” days, but I think there is value in simplifying life and choosing rest instead of busyness.
Check out some resources I’ve pulled together in this self-care toolkit to help you understand how to prioritize biblical self-care.
She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy (v. 20).
I know, this is one of those “should do” items that tends to slip. How in the world do we fit in generosity when life is already bursting at the seams?
Personally, I think the trick is not to add one more thing to your to-do list, but rather be smarter about how to incorporate sharing with those in need (including sharing the gospel). You’re already going to be eating; invite someone over during a family meal. Make an extra large batch of soup so you can take the extra to your neighbor with the newborn. Include gifts for families in need in your Christmas budget and have your kids wrap them with you.
I’ve never regretted time and energy spent on giving outside of my family, because it simultaneously fills me up. When I look at the Proverbs 31 woman, it seems that generosity was a part of her character and lifestyle, not just something she checked off her list periodically to feel good.
Related post: Easy Ways to Serve Your Community
Balance and Proverbs 31: the Modern Takeaway
Modern women can find a lot of takeaways about living with balance from the Proverbs 31 woman. What makes her ideal is not because she “does it all” but rather her character.
Did you catch that? The key to “balance” is working on growing your character. Specifically in the areas of:
- Loving God
- Loving your husband
- Being intentional with how you spend your time
- Choosing rest
- Loving others
I bet if you worked on growth (not perfection) in these areas, you’d feel a lot less frazzled.
If you enjoyed this study, be sure to check out my seven-day Proverbs 31 devotional, Woman of Strength.
Your turn: what do you have trouble balancing in your life? What could you learn from Proverbs 31 that could help that?