I was sitting in a doctor’s office, reading a recent article in Time magazine, about how moms are having to make a tough choice between starting a career and having children. It got my interest, since I’m expecting my fourth child and I’ve certainly felt the money pinch enough times to wish I had a high-paying career! All that day (and many times since) I pondered the question of whether moms should work or whether they should stay home full-time and devote themselves to their spouses and children.
A lot of moms do work! On a pad of paper, I scribbled several reasons why moms probably work, but I’m sure my list isn’t exhaustive. However, I think finances top the list. Whether families just don’t make enough money to pay for basic necessities or whether we Americans have just increased our perception of what’s needed to keep up with the standard of living, I’m not sure. I do know, though, that money pressures and even levels of debt can force a mom back into the workforce, even if she’d rather be home!
I miss little moments throughout the day and am not around them like I’d like to be—but it’s either that or they don’t eat, so in that sense, no, I don’t regret it.” — mom in Missouri
I’m sure there are other reasons why moms choose to work outside the home. Feelings of accomplishment and worth are important to women, yet the endless drudgery of diapers and dishes can make a woman feel like a second-class citizen. Also, talking to toddlers for hours at a time can make a mom’s brain turn to mush, and she can begin to desire the companionship of the workplace.
“[An obstacle I’ve had to overcome is} feeling somewhat useless because I am not working a ‘real job.’ I have to assure myself that being a stay-at-home mom is the most worthwhile job I can have, but I’ve been working outside the home since I was 16 years old, so there is definitely an adjustment to be made.” — mom in Colorado
So why would a mom choose to stay home with her kids? A top reason would have to be concern for the kids. Most moms realize the importance of being the primary caregiver for their children. What daycare worker will ever love your children as much as you do? Even those who can find excellent childcare will admit that the primary responsibility for teaching their children and molding their character belongs to the parents.
So what is right? What should a mom do if she wants to stay home with her children but can’t because of tight finances? Does the Bible have anything to say about moms working?
Let’s address that last question first, since the Word of God should be our source book for any questions we have, as well as the final authority on life’s toughest issues. Titus 2:3 states that women should be “busy at home” (NIV). Does that mean that her only career should be her home? Proverbs 31 seems to describe a woman who earns some income for the family—but it is also apparent that the welfare of her husband and children are her first priority.
“[I decided to become a stay-at-home mom because I] felt as if the Lord was leading me to align my priorities with how I spent my time. (I was working 60 hours a week after delivering my 1st and 2nd children.) I definitely have more time and energy now to focus on [my marriage and kids]. I feel more “well-balanced” staying at home than I ever did working.” — mom in Florida
1 Timothy 5 gives a list of honorable deeds that a widow should have accomplished during her life if she is to be provided for by the church. “No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds” (verse 9-10). As I look at this list, I wonder how any woman could accomplish these things and work a job, too—and at least keep a portion of her sanity! Paul also counsels the “younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander” (verse 14).
“I do have more time to work in my home. I am more consistent in my devotions since I do them during nap time… I can help my husband more in his ministry. I have dinner on the table on time more often than I did before.” — Pastor’s wife
So while I don’t read any direct prohibitions against women working in the Bible, in certainly seems that God wants our priority to be our husbands, children, homes, and ministries.
“[I would] preferably not [work outside the home] if I had a second chance. I only worked part time. I started out only working while they were in school, but then my employer wanted more hours, and it affected their grades not having Mom home.” — mom in Canada
Many moms I know have chosen to work at home, so they can be with their children while helping out the budget at the same time. Unfortunately, of the moms I talked to, very few could make enough money working at home to really help much. I’ve been in their shoes! When I’ve worked at home, I faced a constant struggle between maintaining my home, spending quality time with my kids, and providing good service to my clients. Usually my family won—and my business went elsewhere! On the other hand, I know of some wonderful exceptions to this. There are women who are great managers of their time and are able to juggle these many responsibilities with ease (or at least they make it look that way).
“Working at home is best, at least for me, because I get to use my talents and abilities, which makes me happier and more patient with my children.” — mom in Florida
So what is the answer to this great dilemma? Have I given you any help or have I just muddled the issue some more? Well, here are some additional ideas to get you thinking:
- What does your husband want? I believe God is honored and pleased when we wives submit to our husband’s leadership, whether it makes sense to our minds or not. “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:22-24). God will protect your family (and your pocketbook!) when you obey Him by submitting to your husband’s leadership.
- If money is your top reason for working, take a good look at your budget and see if some drastic measures might make the difference. I don’t know your situation, but usually our priorities in life are reflected in our spending.
- If a need for social interaction is keeping you at your job, pray about getting involved in your local church. The other women in your church can become an anchor to you, offering you wisdom and guidance and support. At the same time, you will be learning to minister to others and show hospitality. (See Titus 2:1-8.)
I know I haven’t begun to reach into the heart of this issue, but I hope that, like that Time article, I’ve got you thinking! Is it time for you to reevaluate the priorities in your life?
“Don’t forget yourself . Mothers should not always come last. If you get a break, take care of yourself, spend time only with your spouse—you will become a better mother!” — mom in Canada
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