Lately I have read a lot of things about being a stay-at-home mom. For many, it seems like this critical and vital role is under attack. I’m confident that there are some people in our world who question why a woman would “give up their career” in order to raise their kids. I also know that in the circles I travel in, I have never met anyone who questioned this choice. To be fair – the circles I travel in are those most likely to stress the impact that proper parenting has on kids and therefore to (rightfully) celebrate the influence that a stay-at-home mother can have. Therefore, I meet many more people who question why a mom would work outside of the home and the potential effect it could have on her family. And although I’ve been hesitant to jump into the discussion, I wanted to offer a few things to consider. Because the truth of the matter is that I think this is a subject where there should be a lot of grace, and yet so often I find that’s precisely what’s missing.
It’s Hard Being a Mom
The first thing that I hope all moms can acknowledge, and especially Christian moms, is that being a mother is tough. This is especially true if you are trying to raise your children according to God’s principles in a culture that is hostile to them. No one should look at motherhood and think that it is all butterflies and roses (although from my experience there is a lot of both!). I have found that the most difficult days are not the one that I anticipate but the unexpected moments of not being sure what to do. Moms want to do right by their kids and yet it is impossible for us to see the future. Every mom I know has questioned some decision that they have made as a parent and have wondered whether it was the right one. Sleepless nights don’t only come when your children are awake; the also come from wondering what is the right thing to do.
The Rewards Are Great
Although it is difficult being a mom, the rewards are great. There is nothing that can compare to your child spontaneously telling you that they love you or drawing a picture just to make you smile. Of course, the greatest reward of parenting comes from seeing your children follow after Christ and being used by Him for His Kingdom’s purposes. When it comes to how we engage with other moms, let’s put our focus on that. We want to encourage our sisters in Christ as they point their children to Him. We want to celebrate their victories and rejoice with them in their children’s successes. Not in terms of how the world defines success – but in terms of how Christ does. When we meet a mom who is weary let’s help her refocus on the heavenly rewards that are in store for those who diligently and faithfully raise their children according to God’s standards.
Don’t Assume Motives
With those two things as the ground rules, let’s be careful not to assume motives when it comes to whether a particular mom has a job outside of their home while simultaneously raising her kids. For example – I recently read a blog post that seemed to indicate that the author understood why single moms worked but indicated that married moms who worked did so primarily for financial reasons. I trust that the author did know moms who were motivated by extra cash, but that might not be the only, or even the primary, reason a mom has a job outside of the home. Be careful ascribing motives or claiming that one path is superior to another without knowing the circumstances. Doing so will likely result in a lot of unnecessary hurt and potentially fractured relationships.
On a side note – can I make a personal plea? Please don’t ever say to a working mom that someone else is raising her kids. I’ve heard this many times from well-meaning people, normally in defense of why they choose not to work outside the home. Here’s the thing – both my husband and I work outside the home – and we raise our kids. I am regularly giving them instruction, teaching them right from wrong, wiping away their tears, correcting their behavior, and pointing them to Christ. I hope that someone wouldn’t say that a dad was excused from raising their kids just because they were also issued a paycheck. When someone implies I’ve leaving the raising of my kids to someone else, my heart breaks a little. Not because I feel the need to defend myself to that person, but because it seems that they equate raising a child with the amount of time spent together, and while there may be some correlation there, it certainly is not absolute.
Focus on Obedience to Christ
When it comes to your own decision whether or not to work outside of the home, the most important thing is that you are obedient to Christ. I am fully convinced that God calls some moms to be employed, just as much as He calls some moms not to. Recognize that you need to be concerned with God’s calling on your life – not your neighbor’s, your co-worker’s, your sister’s, or your mom’s. It Is not our place to compare our calling to someone else’s. God has created each of His children in unique ways to accomplish unique purposes. In the Bible we have examples of women who had “careers” and women who didn’t. Additionally, there is no biblical instruction regarding what a specific person living today should do for work – as long as the work doesn’t violate a command of Scripture. Let’s not make universal proclamations on issues where the Bible is silent. And let’s make sure that we are carefully seeking God’s call on our lives and are willing to do whatever He has called us to – whether that means we are employed outside of the home or not.
All Moms Work
Lastly, let’s acknowledge that if you’re a mom, you’re working. Whether they work primarily inside the home, or they also work outside of it, as we said at the beginning being a mom is tough and that means all moms have a job to do. I’m sure that there are moments that many working moms wish they could stay at home, and that stay-at-home moms may longingly look at those who leave to a place of employment. But whether they stay or go, they are working. In fact, when I meet a mom I never ask her if she works. The answer would always be “yes!”. Instead I generally asks how she spends her time, and in that I often get a more robust answer than simply knowing if she has an employer or not. But if she’s a mom, there is work to do. If she’s a Christian mom, she is working extra hard because the calling on her life is that all of it – as a mother, and in any other role – is pointing others to Christ. This is the most worthy endeavor and it should be done with excellence. And excellence requires hard work.
Priorities Not Preferences
It’s often hard to have conversations about parenting and work because it is rightly a topic many people feel strongly about. But I would like to hope that our passion for serving Christ would supersede our personal perspectives and preferences. I also hope that regardless of what decision you make, that we can all have grace for others who may be led differently. And I hope that whatever you do, you do so because it would bring the greatest honor to Christ.