By Rebecca Roman
As an informal practice, The Messenger has avoided publishing Mother’s Day articles as it’s a cultural occasion rather than a holiday according to the Christian calendar. However, as the day falls on a Sunday, most churches use Mother’s Day as a way to acknowledge the contributions of women (whether mothers or not).
Over the course of the pandemic, studies have been conducted that show COVID’s disproportionate effects on women. For example, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s March 2021 study showed that 24.4 per cent of women indicated experiencing moderate to severe anxiety levels in the past week (as compared to 17.3 per cent of men). The numbers were similar (with a similar gender gap) for those reporting feeling lonely occasionally or most of the time in the past week.
A CBC article by Shahroze Rauf published February 9, 2021, cited a report commissioned by the Association pour la Santé Publique du Québec and the Observatoire québécois des inégalités “that the impact of certain pandemic measures particularly hit mothers, ‘who already take on a larger share of domestic work and childcare at home.’ ” (As an aside, the comments on this article show there is still work to be done in elevating some people’s regard for women.)
As someone who became a mother for the third time last spring, I can attest to the additional challenges the pandemic has placed on mothers with young children. Increased isolation with reduced support is a recipe for depression in anyone; and mothers, of course, are not alone in this experience. This has also been the experience of people in long-term care facilities and people who live alone, among others.
While a lot of the increased pressures women are feeling come from external factors due to the pandemic, I believe at least some of it results from a false view of biblical womanhood. With its emphasis on being the helper, it can make women reluctant to ask for and receive help.
The Proverbs 31 woman is often held up as the ultimate example of what biblical womanhood should look like. She gets up while it’s still night to provide “food for her family and…female servants” (v. 15), she works “vigorously” (v. 17) and cares for the poor and needy (v. 20). She definitely doesn’t spend any amount of time doom-scrolling Twitter (v. 27).
If this is the ideal picture of biblical womanhood, what about women who are unmarried, or who don’t have children? Or those who are too burned out to continually provide care for those around them?
In her article “Three Traits of Biblical Womanhood” at unlockingthebible.org, Melissa Danisi points out that in the Hebrew Bible Proverbs 31 immediately follows the book of Ruth. “How,” she asks, “could a barren, widowed, single woman portray this Proverbs 31 woman of virtue? Because of her fear of the Lord” (Proverbs 31:30).
She goes on to list three characteristics of biblical womanhood:
- A biblical woman understands she is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27; Psalm 139:13–16).
- A biblical woman understands she is redeemed as a follower of Jesus, regardless of her roles (Galatians 3:28–29; Ephesians 1:7).
- A biblical woman understands she is gifted and empowered by God (Ephesians 2:10).
As we honour women in Mother’s Day celebrations and beyond, let’s focus on women who model a posture of openness to the moving of the Spirit, rather than some false picture of ideal womanhood.
And, in case a commenter from the CBC article happens across this editorial, feel to substitute “biblical manhood” where this article reads “biblical womanhood.” I believe you’ll find the principles still apply.