Sunday, February 5, 2012

passionate, joyful homemaking: should moms pursue a career?

two main things are mentioned in genesis.  our role towards our husbands (being a helper) and our role towards our children (bearing them).  however, due to sin, we want to run away from our role, which once was a blessing but has become a burden, due to the fall.

so now the question of career.  does a career mesh with God's created purpose for us?  is it practical, is it a good thing for a mother to have a career?  or should women be homeward focused?  why?

'Tavik Frantisek Simon: Japanese Mother with Child' photo (c) 2006, D Flam - license:

the bible speaks to a mother's purpose
“[older women in the church] are to teach what is good, and so train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home...”   titus 2:5
“younger widows [should] marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander”  1 timothy 5:14
“[the excellent wife] looks well to the ways of her household,
and does not eat the bread of idleness”   proverbs 31:27
the bible makes it very clear that a christian wife and mother is to be the keeper of her home.  this is not demeaning (as our culture tries to paint it as being); on the contrary wives/mother are entrusted with a very important and complex job. fortunately, it is a job that taps into the strengths that God has uniquely created women with (for example, studies show that women are better at multi-tasking... a much needed skill with the multifaceted complexities of managing a household, such as making dinner while toddlers are running around and helping older kids do homework!). 
mothers have the responsibility to be the main influence in their children’s lives, to keep the household in order and make it a place of peace for the whole family, as well as making it possible to host outside guests (romans 12:13).
personally, i would say that i have never felt more alive as i do as a stay at home mom.  this is the job that has tapped best into my personal gifts and passions, and i truly love it.  thats not to say it is never hard, or that i never end the day feeling defeated (that has happened plenty of times!) but ultimately i know that it is what God created me to do, and that i am following His word by doing so, which is always the best for us (though not always the easiest).
it is better for children’s behavior
the bible is by far the most important source in instructing the christian’s life.  but the cool thing is, God gives instructions for a reason... because he designed us knows what  the best thing is for us.
the bible does not stand alone in encouraging a mom to focus on her children, many studies back this up.  of particular note is the impact day care has on a child’s behavior:  the more time children spend in day care, the more discipline problems they have, up until at least sixth grade. (source)

when we are with our children throughout the day, we can instill biblical values in them, even in the little moments.  day care workers (and even teachers) are just doing a job for a paycheck.  this not to say that they don't care about their students, but they will never care about the soul of your child like you do.

for example, in all the schools i have worked in, they push tolerance.  i don't want my children to learn tolerance, i want them to learn a higher value.   i want teach my children to love others, even their enemies,  as jesus did.  how can they learn this if i am not free and available to instruct them throughout the day, especially in their young, foundational years?

furthermore, being with your children throughout the day shows them how much you love and care for them.  they do not have to act out to get your attention; they are secure and assured of your love and care.

about a month ago i was at a christmas party at  a large, beautiful house, one that (i assumed) could only come from a two income family.  i was wrong!  i got into a conversation with the hostess, and asked her what sort of work she does.  she told me that her kids are her main focus.  “as it should be” she went on to say. “sometimes i substitute teach at my kids’ school.  you can definitely tell the difference between the kids with a mom who stays at home and those whose parents both have full time jobs!”
working creates excessive stress on mom 
i can personally attest to this.  for about two months, by accident, i was a working mom.  about 7 months after we got our foster kids, we were told that they would be moved to another foster home after our van broke down and we had no way to transport them to parent visits.  i told my work that they could start scheduling me again, and they did (i hadn’t fully quit my job at that time, since we knew the kids might go back with their mom, and i might have to work again).  however, when the time came for me to start working, the kids were still with us (and were for two more months, until they were reunited with their birth mom).
i had just about the best “working mom” situation you could have, and it was still hard:  I only worked 4.5 hours per day, my commute was minimal, and my mom (who lived with us) watched the kids while i was gone. i even had weekends off, since the kids were starting to stay with their birth mom friday night to sunday at that point.  furthermore, the whole time i knew that it was a temporary situation with an end in sight.
while i was at work, all i could think about was what needed to get done at home.  i fell behind in my goals for the kids (teaching them letters, numbers, etc).  scheduling things like pediatrician check-ups was very difficult.  i felt like my attention was divided, and work definitely wasn’t my main focus.  i can only imagine how much harder this would be for women who work full time with a long commute and no relatives to help with care.
when a mother has to work in addition to fulfilling her home responsibilities, she is trying to serve two conflicting ends and she feels divided. 

in addition to the stress on the mother, stress is created in the marriage when mom works outside the home.  parents fight over division of responsibilities like picking up the kids and doing household chores.  almost always, the mother ends up doing a greater part of these responsibilities, in addition to her job.  this leads to busy, stressed out parents and confused, attention-seeking children. (source and source)
you can be the main influence on your child’s spiritual life
many parents assume that it is the church’s or youth pastor’s role to teach their children about the bible and jesus.  however, the main burden of this responsibility lies in the hands of parents (deuteronomy 11:19).  being able to focus fully on your children gives you many opportunities throughout the day to disciple them by teaching them the bible, modeling christ-likeness, modeling repentance (when you inevitably fail at christ-likeness!), and speaking into every facet of their lives.

it may even be sin (probably on the husband’s part) if she is pursuing a career
a husband who wants his wife to work is basically saying “hey, honey, can you help me out with my part of the curse?  i know that you have the whole childbearing curse, but work is hard, and i think you should help me to bear my burden, too.”
its childish.  it is unmanly.  but too many times he is getting away with it.
conversely, it may also be sin on the mother’s part if she is working.  women want to take over their husband’s role and this may manifest itself in a desire to work so that she can be the leader of the family.
not pursuing a career is counter-cultural
do you long to be normal, to do what everyone else is doing? the norm in america is divorce and kids growing up without a dad.  the norm in america is high levels of stress, stress-related illness and high incidences of depression.  the norm in america is long hours at work and even working while at home (via the laptop, blackberry, etc).  the norm in america is failing schools with greater and greater discipline problems.
be counter-cultural. DONT outsource raising your child to an institution.  DONT put your marriage on the rocks for the sake of a job.  it will be hard, it will go against the grain and it will ruffle some other people’s feathers, but it will be worth it.
being a stay at home mom is traditional
“traditional” is a word with bad connotations to some people.  but for me it is a plus.  i am starting to learn that there is wisdom in many of the things that people have been doing for thousands of years.  after learning the benefits of traditional diets, i have been changing the way we eat, with noted improvement in our health.  after learning the benefits of traditional sleep (sleeping at night, longer in the winter and with total darkness), i have been increasing the amount i sleep and trying to keep our bedroom as dark as possible (source).  after learning the benefits of traditional babywearing, i make it a priority to wear our babies as i go through my daily activities.
people have had thousands of years to perfect the art of living.  most of the ways they have been doing things for these past thousands of years really are the best.  and when all is said and done, i would argue that staying at home is by far the best job for a mom.
'mother' photo (c) 2007, Hans Splinter - license:

do these things resonate with you?  why have you chosen to be a stay at home mom, if you are?  what advantages have you seen in your life and family?


  1. When I was a college senior, I took a summer job at a YWCA Daycare/Preschool. I loved the students I worked with. I enjoyed creating lesson plans, and I even had each of my friends pray specifically for one child all summer.
    With that said, at the end of the summer I realized how LITTLE contact I had with individual children each day. I did lots of group activities with the kids, but there was never time to TALK to the children one on one.
    I LOVE how I can talk to my children. I can ask them specific questions. I can interact with them personally.
    On Tuesday I was at a conference for Moms. I hated not knowing how their days went. I can't imagine that being typical life!
    Great post!

    1. i agree! after a couple of years working one-on-one with children with autism doing intensive behavior therapy, i would say that i am amazed at how much more impact i have on my own children by being with them each day, throughout the day.

      even though i got many more compliments about my work with autistic kids (people would say stuff like "wow, i can't believe you do that! good for you! we need more people to do what you are doing!") i think that my current role is much more important.

  2. WOW this is so offensive to working moms. My mother worked the whole time I was growing up and my sisters and I were not only extremely well behaved childern we have all become very successful in our adult life..going to some of the top schools in the country and now working at some of the top firms. I am about to have my first child and I do not feel the least bit ashamed to be a working mother. My child will still be VERY much loved (and know it!) and well behaved. My husband will also GLADLY share the duties of the household and raising our child. Did you see that study recently that working mothers are happier than stay at home moms? Or maybe you are still living in 1920. I have no doubt that God wanted woman to be able to excel at careers and be able to raise a family.

    1. it seems as though you and i may have different definitions of success. my hope in being a good mother is not to have my kids go to a great college or work at a top firm, but to raise children who follow jesus and live sacrificially (which may or may not involve going to college or working a top-paying job).

      maybe i am still living in the 1920's. as i wrote above, being a stay at home mom IS traditional. we are learning these days that there are many benefits to traditional life practices.

  3. Thank you for your post, it really resonates with me. My mom is a very successful business woman, CEO of a company that she developed. I love her dearly and have so much respect for her, my brothers and I all turned out well. However, I was in day-care from the time I was three months old so she could return to work, after school we had to stay until 6 pm until her or my dad could pick us up, or when we were older we would be left unattended until the evening. Many times she stayed late for work and went on business trips. In the end, for the most part it wasn't her that raised us, it was the schools and other influences that we were surrounded by on a daily basis that largely shaped us. Also, it negatively affected her marriage as she made significantly more money than my dad, it slowly created a power shift where my mom ended up being the leader in our family, which was not a healthy situation.

    The difficulty is that I want something different for my life, but I don't see how to make it work. I just got married 6 months ago and we don't have any children yet. Both my husband and I have debt from school (as we just recently graduated), and he works for a non-profit company which doesn't pay enough to raise a family on, it would barely be enough for the two of us. I would love to be a stay at home mom, but the world is more expensive than it use to be. I became a nurse so that when I had children my work schedule could be very flexible, so hopefully everything works out. But thank you for your encouragement. I agree with all the benefits you stated about raising your children, hopefully the modern woman who isn't married to a wealthy man can find a way to make it all work.

    1. thank you for sharing your experience! i will pray for wisdom in your current situation and for God to graciously provide a way for you to stay at home when you do have children. from talking to various women, it seems like school debt is a really heavy burden on many couples.

  4. as a working christian mom of a young child- this post is extremely disturbing and discouraging. i just feel that we as christian women shouldn't tear each other down or pass judgement on the circumstances of others. God has specific callings and giftings for each of us. We should concern ourselves with being in the center of God's will for our own lives and not looking at others and casting stones. We should want to encourage other women in their walks with the Lord and lift them up to be the best mothers and wives they can be- regardless if they work or stay at home. The postings just seem very narrow in focus, insensitive and seem to limit what God can do. Our God is great enough to use women mightily in the workforce and in her home. I just don't see any love, compassion or kindness in your postings.

    1. my purpose is not to condemn or cast stones, but to uplift the biblical responsibilities of a mother and wife. our culture often demeans these roles, and i want to help christian women to lift their eyes and see the roles for what they are: noble and beautiful.

      i cannot fully agree with your statement "We should concern ourselves with being in the center of God's will for our own lives and not looking at others". in truth, each one of us will have to stand before God, and we alone will be responsible for our life decisions (romans 14:12). however, God certainly sees an important place for teaching, instruction and learning from wise others (titus 2, proverbs 31:26, proverbs 15:22).

  5. There will be a day when you regret this post. Either because the perspective of time will help you to see the immaturity and self-righteousness it is oozing, or because the Lord will grant you an opportunity to work outside the home that will glorify Him. Theological accuracy is important, but so is wisdom and sensitivity. I would recommend Caroline Mahaney's book 'feminine appeal' which comes from her 30 years of experience as a mother and mentor and addresses these issues with wisdom and Biblical truth.

    1. i love that book! it was a foundational book for my understanding of biblical womanhood. i agree with everything she says in the book. as i'm sure you are aware, she has a whole chapter devoted to the importance of being homeward-focused, and even extends this to single women.

      i'm sorry that you feel like my writing is oozing with immaturity and self-righteousness. if you knew me in person, i would hope that you could see that my motive is to lift up the Word of God, the importance of discipleship and that i want the best for every woman and family.

  6. Dear Sarah,

    Excellent post, dear sister. And your response to "Anonymous" at 4:10 PM is just right. Be faithful and don't let the faithless and bitter turn your head or harden your heart.

    The brightest minds and hardest workers and strongest mothers have always been "keepers at home." Other women resent them, but whaddya gonna do?

    Love in Christ,

  7. Dear Sarah,

    Thank you for all the time it took to write this post. As a mother of four, i know how great a feat it can be to find the time to complete an email or even a simple status update with little ones at your feet, let alone a blog post. :)

    I completely resonate with all that you have said in this post. And what you mentioned is nothing new or earth-shattering. Biblical truths, and therefore it's wisdom, will stand the test of time because God's Word is above any modern-day logic.

    Before my husband & I were married, we decided that i would stay home once God began to bless us with children. I worked as an RN before our first son was born. Even though we had intended it from the beginning, I still found myself struggling with the idea of quitting my nursing position to stay home throughout my pregnancy. I quickly realized it was because I struggled to trust God to provide through my husband. This is only one of the millions of lessons God has given to me through my children & staying home over the past 6 years.

    Make no mistake--it has been hard for me to stay home. I have been refined by God in ways that could not have been done through any other job or position. But God has bless our entire household by us being faithful in this very critical area--Biblical roles.

    In a culture that despises distinctions, it is not surprising that some hate this post. Do not be discouraged, sister. Be faithful to God's Word. Continue to be salt & light. There is a great need to women to live out Biblical womanhood, to reclaim what it means to be keepers of the home. May we be such woman, that the proceeding generations would be blessed.

    In Christ,
    Emily Foster

    1. thank you emily for your honesty! i think that some women might mistake the difficulty of staying at home as a sign from God that they shouldn't... when in fact he may be using it as sanctification as in your case. thank you for your helpful thoughts! and thank you for choosing to serve your children and husband in this way, even when its hard.

  8. Thanks Sarah, great work! You've presented these very unpopular truths clearly and with humility, as well as responded to the naysayers in an upright and respectful manner. It's been an encouraging read!

    With love,

    1. glad you were encouraged! thanks for commenting! :)

  9. Lovely, lovely, lovely! Clicked on your blog from Femina....So nice to have yet another godly woman on the blogosphere. Blessings to you and yours!
    Love, Paige

  10. This is a great post and very encouraging! I would only add that fathers are also to have a large role in the spiritual training of children as the leader of the house. This is such an interesting topic as it is so counter-cultural and eye-opening for me even as a lifelong Christian!

    1. I definitely agree about the father's role being very important as well. I don't speak to that merely because I am not a father and don't have much to say on that topic :) But there are many great resources out there on that topic. One that I know of is my small group leader from church's blog, he often writes about fatherhood:

  11. Sarah i am a working mum of four aged between ten and three and i constantly struggle with guilt for being out of the home for such long hours and even at times for a number of days while out on work travel. How do i gather the courage to become a stay at home mum and how do i trust that my husband who is self employed will be able to take care of all our bill including school fees for a large family on his income

    1. It sounds like you are very sensitive to God's work in your heart in this area, which is the first step. You are in a good place.

      It is important that you recognize the fear that you are facing, as well as realizing that the important part is not trusting your husband so much as trusting God.

      First of all, the fear aspect. As women, we are really prone to fear, which the bible addresses: "For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening." 1 Peter 3:5-6

      Do not let fear control your life. Fear will lead you away from God and away from making godly decisions. Make sure you are spending time daily reading the Bible and asking God to fill you with faith.

      Secondly, make sure that your faith is founded on God, not your husband. God alone controls how much business he will bring to your husband. The Bible says that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10), which is a way of saying, God owns more than you can wrap your mind around! So trust Him, he is able to provide. God is delighted to provide for His children when they are taking steps of faith to trust him.

      Lastly, I will add, as you take the step of faith to quit your job and trust God to provide, he may also be calling you to take steps of faith to cut your spending. I can't see your budget, but I am sure there are ways that you can cut back: eating out less, seeing less movies, buying less expensive groceries, conserving electricity and water, even moving to a smaller house if need be or maybe choosing to homeschool some or all of your kids to save on school fees. Some of these things are even easier to save on when you are a stay at home mom (for example, you have more time to cook and won't be eating out as much, plus you wont be paying for daycare for your youngest). All these sacrifices will not go unnoticed by your Heavenly Father, who will reward all of these sacrifices in his eternal kingdom.

      Be blessed sister! I am praying for you!