Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
— Titus 2:3-5
God’s Word commands married women to be ”workers at home.” Why? And what does this mean?
Let me set a bare minimum baseline. It means that when women have young children, they need to be home with those children to raise them as much as possible. This is the divine requirement. Obviously, situations vary, but Titus 2 gives the norm and the ideal. We can discuss exceptions or special circumstances, but Paul wants older women in the church to teach younger women to plan their lives around raising children at home. While the modern world tells women to put career ahead of motherhood in their life plan, the Scriptures give women a different map to use in charting their lives. Motherhood takes precedence over everything else; instead of sacrificing her motherly role for other vocations, she should sacrifice those other vocations for the sake of fulfilling her role as a mother. There is a reason the first woman God created was named “Eve,” meaning “Mother of the Living.”Motherhood is difficult, no doubt, but it is also glorious. The church should lead the way in elevating motherhood and restoring it to its rightful place of honor.
As with everything else in God’s law, this command makes perfect sense when we contemplate it. There is no substitute for a mother. No one can love a child like that child’s own mother. As C. S. Lewis said, motherhood is the vocation for which all other vocations exist. Motherhood, especially when young children are involved, is too demanding to be easily combined with other jobs or vocations. Mothers of little ones should be kept free from other burdens as much as possible (which means their husbands will have to shoulder the weight of providing for the household).
Motherhood is a “them before us” issue (to borrow Katie Faust’s terminology). One of the tragedies of the modern world is that many women unthinkingly put their own desires above what is best for their own children. Thus, they pursue career, status, and money instead of raising their own children. I do not doubt some women would find a career preferable to staying at home to raise their children. But if a woman prioritizes career over motherhood due to a personal preference, she is being disobedient to God. It’s that simple. It should not surprise us that the world undermines and subverts motherhood because Satan is always working to draw us away from the divine design. But we should be shocked that so many Christian women act as if Titus 2 was not in the Bible.
The time to start teaching women these things is when they are still young enough to make decisions that that will allow them to keep motherhood a priority. Putting motherhood ahead of career might also mean prioritizing motherhood ahead of college -- or at least letting it dictate how a woman approaches college. I am not at all opposed to sending mature young Christian women off to college if certain stipulations are met, e.g., there must be a solid Christian community to join. Women need to be educated. And the old fashioned "Mrs. degree" is a real thing. But if a woman pursues a degree that requires debt and graduate school to get into the job market, it might be too late before she realizes that she has locked herself into a life course that marginalizes motherhood. Even if she eventually marries and has children, she might not get to be with her children as much as she would like. Or to put it another way, she may find it very difficult to obey Titus 2's command to be a worker at home. She has backed herself into a corner, even as the clock on her fertility continues to run out. She will have to work many years to pay off her loans, or get any kind of substantial return on her investment. All the while, her options for marriage and motherhood -- which are much more central to her ultimate happiness than her job -- will be dwindling. It would be much better to find an affordable way to do college that does not require debt, or to pursue some kind of work that does require an expensive degree at all. Women should be trained from their teenage years on in the importance of motherhood and homemaking, and the skills that will help them succeed in these roles. Young women should work on developing a life plan that is anchored in the commands of Titus 2.
What God requires of mothers squares with the best science and social science data we have. Just “follow the science” as folks like to say. It is clear from the way their bodies and hormones work that women were designed to be lifegivers and nurturers. Men and women are most definitely not interchangeable; both are necessary, but they love their children in different ways. Fathers cannot nurture little ones the way mothers do. Further, mothers who devote themselves to caring for their children in those early, foundational years see the fruit of their labors in their children’s lives. As those children get older, they have better relational bonding abilities and fewer emotional problems. As usual, God’s ways are best, and the data is there to prove it. Check out Erik Komisar’s book “Being There” on the science of motherhood for proof. Or, for a synopsis, check out this article.
Additional resources:
Doug Wilson on women as workers at home
Scott Yenor here and here
Suzanne Venker's defense of motherhood
Lori Alexander's call for women to obey Titus 2