Am I really a PW? I am only doing what wives and mothers back home are doing? If I am not “out there” working, I’m not really worthy to be called a PW. I’m a failure if I can’t learn the language well. A “real” PW wouldn’t be crying over bugs in the rice, mildew in my shoes, and having to cut my own hair.
These are distortions we have all heard in our heads from time to time. They are usually triggered by a bad day or a long series of bad days. They are the ones that bubble up from some ache deep inside and are blown all out of proportion the longer we think about them. They are a slippery slope to depression.
Some of these were the very reason Peter’s Wife was first started. Twenty years ago PWs coming from nearby countries to renew their visas would stop by and visit or stay with us for a few days. The husbands would visit with my husband in the living room. They would excitedly tell of all the wonderful results for their work. Their wives, on the other hand, would be with me in the kitchen crying because they hadn’t been able to learn the language, home schooling was not going well and the ants were taking over their kitchen. Peter’s Wife began as a way to connect these women with others in similar situations. It helps so much to know we are not alone.
As a wife and mother, you have a different “mission” than your husband and single women on the field. Your husband and single women usually have a “call” to a certain place or work. You, on the other hand, may know you are supposed to “go.” But your first responsibility is as a helpmeet to your husband and mother to your children. That doesn’t mean you won’t do anything in the overseas work, but your primary role is different from your husband’s.
Some sending agencies understand this difference, some don’t. Some put as much responsibility on wives and mothers to keep up with the work as with their husbands. For those of you in that situation, you really need as much of a “call” as your husband in order to cope with the stresses of everyday life on the field.
But for those of you who are keeping a home and taking care of your children, while your husband is out “doing the work,” you need to know your role is just as important to God as your husband’s. You have a right and responsibility to be where you are and do what you are doing.
Recently an article was published in an e-newsletter called To the Source. Their web site is at: www.tothesource.org The article was called “Hardwired to Connect.” A major study was done by Darmouth Medical School, the YMCA of the USA, and the Institute for American Values. It confirmed the importance of maternal activities on the development of the baby’s brain. The normal things mothers do with their babies like tickling them, playing peek-a-boo, and imitating all their little baby noises actually develop our capacity for sociability and connection later in life. Without this stimulation the limbic system of the brain fails to develop properly and it will make it harder for these children to “read” other people’s feelings, enjoy close contact with other people, and develop moral and spiritual meaning in their lives.
Mothers, this means there is hard scientific evidence for what we have known right along. Our children need our time and attention. They need the little touches. They need us to listen to them when they want to tell us something. They need to connect with us so they will later be able to connect with others.
For those who are home schooling, that is an incredibly demanding and important task. If home schooling is not done properly, we make it so much harder for our children to get higher education and get established in their careers. We shouldn’t minimize the importance of our children’s education and that part of our responsibilities.
Early in our marriage and work, I realized there were not many older women I could talk to and learn from. So many around me were my age or younger. I didn’t feel that the older women I worked with were very approachable and I felt isolated. I began to pray then that as I got older I would be able to be a “mother” to younger women.
I didn’t realize that it was the lessons I was learning in my home by training my children and loving my husband that would be the very things I would “teach” to younger women. I thought I was just marking time until I would be able to “do something” worthwhile. Many times during those early years I felt so “worthless” as far as PW work was concerned. The things I share now are insights I gained in my own home then.
Our family life is an example to the community even if we can’t be out there “telling” them. We are being watched. The way we speak to our children, saying please and thank you, may demonstrate a totally different attitude toward those “inferior” to us. We impressed the locals with our thoughtfulness and generosity by allowing them to use our phone when they needed it. That was a small things done in our own home that touched our neighbors hearts.
Hospitality is another way our family can reach out to those around us. I enjoyed sharing Christmas cookies with our neighbors. They enjoyed all the goodies and listened attentively to what I had to say about the origin of our celebrations. One of our readers said, their children’s friends accepted their hospitality sooner than their parents. They opened the door to their parents’ hearts.
Our first responsibility is to care for our husband, children, and home. A husband will be able to be much more effective if he knows his wife and the children are well taken care of. There is nothing that can derail a man from doing his best like his wife’s depression. You need to be able to talk to your husband about real problems and ways he could help. But a constant stream of complaints and tears will wear away at his ability to do his work.
You are important and what you do is important. Frustrations with life outside your home culture are normal.Bugs and mildew and self-cut hair are irritants. Hard work with little results in language learning or no time to get language training complicate life in another culture. Not having an example of a PW who has made it through your stage of life is lonely. But these are not reasons to quit being a PW.
One time when I wanted to quit nursing school my counselor asked a good question. She asked, “Do you have the money to fly home today?” When I said no, she said, “Then you won’t be leaving today.” She then arranged for me to have a day off and join the underclassmen in a day at the arboretum. This same tactic has helped me many times on the field. When I want to run away, I remember I can’t just pack up and leave today. Then I find something enjoyable to do and usually the next day I feel much better.
The other very important tonic is a good sense of humor. One co-worker in Africa was able to put frustrations in perspective by his creative turn of phrases. He would get us all laughing and the fact that we had no electricity that day didn’t seem so earth shattering. Laughter is good medicine.
So when you hear distortions in your head, know that you are not alone. Know that what you are doing is important in the great scheme of things. Continue faithful to what He calls you to do.
Col. 3:23 tells us that whatever we do, to work at it with all our heart, as working for the Lord. When we serve the Lord wholeheartedly whether in our home or outside, He is pleased by our sacrificial service to His little ones. When you do a good job as a wife and mother, you will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant. . .”