Monday, February 18, 2013

christian subculture and the stay-at-home-mom


On a recent car trip as I searched the radio dial, I stumbled across a Christian station broadcasting to a major market.  The program director, a mother, was describing her role at the station. She talked with great warmth about her job as a ministry, but her final statement caught my attention: “Though I work outside the home, I try to parent like a stay-at-home mom.”

It seemed like an odd conclusion to an otherwise joyful accounting of a call to ministry. Why qualify it? But of course, I knew why. I knew because I had helped to perpetuate the Christian subculture that required she say it.

Seventeen years ago I shelved an MBA to become a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM), a decision that entailed a boatload in foregone income. I don’t think Jeff and I realized we were answering such a big financial question at the time, but even as we stare down an astronomical college expense for our four teens, I know we would make the same choice all over again. I loved staying at home. I don’t regret trading my net worth for a nursery one bit.

But I do regret this: in private, I was hard on mothers who worked outside the home (WOHMs). I thought they were selfish for not having made the choice I had. I told myself my choice was nobler, my workload more worthwhile. And it turned out there were plenty of people to agree with me. Though my co-workers greeted my decision to stay home with uncomprehending stares, my church friends squealed with delight. It was as if I had finally ascended to the Christian ideal for womanhood, liberated from the fetters of feminism.

Yes, our culture may devalue the role of the SAHM, but within the church we tend to do the opposite. We practically canonize her.

Her praises resound in the Christian blogosphere, with daily offerings of encouraging words that she persevere in her underappreciated role. Church calendars cater to her schedule with weekday VBS programs and mommy groups. Christian publishing supports her: a search of “Christian working mother” on Amazon.com reveals about four relevant titles, while a search on “Christian stay at home mom” turns up well over twenty. I have to wonder if we haven’t traded one idol for another, if we haven’t swapped out the caricature of the empowered feminist for the caricature of the domestic goddess. What if, in our zeal to curb cultural adoration of Working Super-Mom we have fostered sub-cultural adoration of Our Lady of Perpetual Laundry, Madonna of the Mac and Cheese?

Don’t misunderstand: I am rooting for the SAHM. I think she is incredibly valuable. I’m just no longer willing to emphasize her value by devaluing her working counterparts, directly or indirectly.

some must work

Because many moms actually do have to work outside the home, and Christians must be mindful of this truth. The fact that some of us even have a choice to stay at home marks us as children of rare socio-economic privilege, even if our choice is financially costly.

The most recent census data shows almost 8 million families living below poverty level in the U.S., a number that is on the rise. This means that for at least ten percent of the population, asking mothers to opt out of the workforce is out of the question. When Christian subculture exalts a family model that is inaccessible to the underprivileged, we add to their burdens. It is already difficult enough for modern-day widows and orphans to connect to the life of the church. Of course, the issue is not just a poverty-level one – many mothers above the poverty level work because their family needs two incomes to make ends meet. Mothers who must work to support their families need to know that the church is their refuge as well. When we uphold a “best case scenario” of motherhood that is withheld from a critical mass of believing women, what “grace-plus-this” scenario do we assign them?

some may be called

But what about the WOHM I secretly despised, the mother who chooses to work? Just as we can be blind to our socio-economic privilege, we can be dull in our understanding of calling. While the Bible prioritizes the home, it does not command women to work there exclusively. Can we acknowledge the possibility that some women are actually called to work outside the home? That they actually choose to work out of the conviction that their contributions in the workplace are needful? We may think that their contributions inside the home must always command the majority of their time, but at what cost to our culture? If we were to remove the culture-shaping voices of Christian women from education, politics, medicine, law, media, board rooms and non-profits we may find we have taken our point beyond where we intended it to go. I wonder if that positive influence might be missed in damaging ways.

heart issues

The Christian response to society’s devaluing of the SAHM cannot be the devaluing of the WOHM. Rather, the church must be committed to the nurture of all mothers, regardless of their work status.

A mother’s true enemies - selfishness and self-centeredness - know no job description. When I left my career, I packed away selfishness with my briefcase, only to find that it had taken up residence in my diaper bag. Selfishness is not issued and withdrawn with an employee ID badge, nor does it adhere to the back of a W-4 form. It is issued at the cradle and withdrawn at the grave. It adheres to the very surface of the human heart.

So let's minister to the hearts of mothers. Let's become less concerned with asking “does she work?” and more concerned with asking “how can we help her mother?” Let's become less preoccupied with a mother’s physical proximity to the home and more concerned with her spiritual proximity to God. May the church be a place where mothers are ministered to and equipped regardless of their employment status. May it be a place where all women are welcomed and supported, and where the only role we exalt is that of Christ as Lord.

51 comments:

  1. I like and agree with this article. However, I feel it leaves out a specific category of working moms that I seem to encounter regularly: Those that choose to work and yet claim it's need. I so often hear people comparing themselves to me with a "I wish I could stay home. It must be so nice to be able to do so." When, in actuality, financially, we might be better if I was working for money, but this is what we feel is best for the children, so we make it work. It's not like we're rolling in cash, we just choose to have a smaller budget to work with and some others could do that too. I admire the working moms that are called to and that have to. But how many of those that claim they have to are really just not willing to give up some "needs" like cable? I just wish they'd call it like it is. "I choose to work because I don't want to stay home." Fine by me, but let's be real for a minute is all I'm saying.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But those women that say that might be giving you lip-service or there might be bigger issues (that they don't feel comfortable sharing) going on in their family that make it imperative that they work. Either way, I don't think it's really anyone's place to judge the validity of their reasons for working or staying at home.

      Delete
    2. I totally agree. I'm not judging the validity of reasons or asking people to share more than they are comfortable with. I just don't want people giving me some "you have it so nice/must be nice to have your life/you're lucky you're so well-off" type of statements. I'm not hating on the fact that some people have cable, etc and have two incomes. To each, their own! Just don't say things to indicate that I'm in a better, luckier, more blessed place. People make priorities for their family as they see fit. Our priority is to not have cable (etc) so that I can stay home. If someone else's priority is to have two incomes and have cable (etc), then cool. I hear the argument that we shouldn't slam working moms all the time, but I've never heard that actually happen in my real life (though a high percentage of my friends stay home). It's usually working moms slamming SAHMs or making us feel guilty or acting like we feel superior or special. Choices are choices and should be respected. On either side of the issue. Instead of: "It must be nice to be able to stay home." say something like "That's cool that you've set your family up that that way. That's different than ours." (I think a lot of people who say they can't afford to stay home don't really know the sacrifices most one-income families make in order for one to stay home. And could probably do the same.)

      Delete
    3. Cutting cable and luxeries can only bring a budget down so far. I get what you're saying, but you are assuming quite a lot into people's lives and circumstances. For any woman who's heart truly is to be home with her children, it is a constant battle in Christian circles to not feel defeated every day. I'm someone who fits into almost all these categories. My job is a ministry and I feel very called to it. My husband makes minimum wage and under 40 hours a week. Yeah, that's around $12,000 a year. But if was able to get a job that paid the bills, I'm not sure if I would still want to work just to feel financially secure. But whatever the reason, I shouldn't have to hang my head when I go to a mom's small group because I'm a WOHM and I shouldn't have to now miss that group because it's during the morning midweek. There does need to be support for all moms no matter what. And even if that mom you're speaking of could rearrange things to make it work, there is a perception in her life that she can't and a longing, a deep ache in her, that yearns for what you have. Don't be frustrated or annoyed by these women, embrace them and delight that you and your family have made it work.

      Delete
    4. Some women do want to stay home and they can't. Sara has a point that some people can live with less and choose not to. (Or sometimes people genuinely don't know how to.) But I have heard my own mouth say some of the things that Sara complains of - and the brutal truth (that I am just starting to realize as I mature) is that I didn't mean them. I had a conservative Christian upbringing and my mom was a SAHM. That seemed like the thing to do. It seemed "right". But I have realized in the last few years that I LIKE working & I CARE about my work. (And I don't have a life saving occupation.) When I stay home full time with my children - even for a short span like maternity leave - I am borderline insane by the end of it. It is a tough and mind numbing job. And so I've made efforts to stop saying things like the comments Sara cited. It's not any hard working SAHM's fault that I felt some sort of Christian-ese compulsion/obligation to say them in the first place. I had no clue at the time (...which can circle back to the 'give them some grace' concept this article spoke to anyway) but it is a disservice to my SAHM friends to act like that's how I feel when I now know that I don't. Everyone is not so self aware/that is not the case for them. I wholeheartedly agree that no one needs to be judging other people's decisions on working or not. You don't never know what kind of battles even your closest friends face behind closed doors.

      Delete
    5. I realize that this post is a couple of years old, but I stumbled upon it as a working mom who is looking for a good read on how to deal with the guilt. I agree with the comment above that you are assuming a lot about people's lives and circumstances. There are so many variables that come into play. I am probably one of those moms you speak of because anyone who knows me well knows that I want nothing more than to be able to stay home. And I often do feel the need to justify/explain myself to my SAHM friends because it is very much a part of the christian subculture to make working moms feel like what we are seeking is not "of God". But, I have never wanted to be a working mom. When I had to go back to work with my youngest, I had a major breakdown. I cried inconsolably for days. There was absolutely nothing I could do to change our family dynamic/circumstance because I have always made substantially more $$ than my husband. I was rather ambitious in college while...he was not. Straight out of school, I made almost double his income. We got pregnant within a year of marriage, pretty much straight out of school, not by our plans, but God's. There was never a buffer period for us or an opportunity to save or get financially prepared for having kids. For years we lived paycheck to paycheck and struggled to make ends meet even with us both working and by all accounts we lived a very modest lifestyle. I get very frustrated with comments like "it takes sacrifice" or "we just have different priorities'. There were times early in our marriage when I went to the grocery that my husband would tell me, "if it goes over $75 you have to start putting stuff back." Things gradually started getting easier and to many I am sure it would seem that I shouldn't have to work. But what they don't realize is that yes with my income we were and are comfortable, but on his alone we would have needed and indeed we would have qualified for government assistance. This is the case for many families...my sister and brother's families included. It really isn't so black and white.

      Delete
    6. I am only finding this article today as well. It is a wonderful, encouraging article as I am a working mom, going to college and yet my husband has just taken over the family business and I may not need to work any longer. I have given birth to 4 children but we have 6 total, our youngest is 11. I had to work as a single mother for years before I met my husband and now that things may be changing where I can stay at home our children are 22, 21, 19, 18, 16 and 11. I've worked outside the home for over 20 years. I have done all I could to host Bible Study's in my home in the evenings, stay involved in the church, etc. and the guilt, uncertainty, and FEAR that all of my efforts may still not being enough - are real. I don't fit in with ambitious working women and nor do I fit in with SAHMs. My focus has to remain on what I truly believe the Lord is calling me to and it has always been and remains to raise my children in the love and admonition of the Lord and Love my husband as myself and honor him - and recognize where I am not enough - Jesus most certainly is on my side and more than willing to fill in the gaps. I believe my education and work experience do help equip my children and give them intelligence, and perspectives but nothing is greater than pointing them to Jesus. In the end I believe this article focuses on what is really the issue – “A mother’s true enemies - selfishness and self-centeredness - know no job description.” Well stated Jen. Christ's peace and love be with all of you and your precious families.

      Delete
  2. Thank you for sharing this, Jen. As a woman who chooses to work outside the home, I have often felt despised by those who stay at home and guilty for not doing so. Yet there is no doubt that this is the Lord's plan for my family.

    Not too long ago, I contributed as article to Desiring Virtue about being a Proverbs 31 woman, no matter of our employment status. I rarely use comments to link to things I write, but I thought it might be helpful for some to see a working woman's perspective.

    http://desiringvirtue.com/2012/09/is-proverbs-31-for-me/

    ReplyDelete
  3. This was fantastic. I love your admonition to ask what we can do to minister to hearts instead of judging the work status. Thanks for pinpointing an area of legalism that is keeping SAHMs from loving WOHMs they way Jesus calls us to love.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Encouraged by this, as I think about our future hopes of having children + seeking the Lord for his wisdom and direction. Thanks for writing, Jen! @stefaniemiles

    ReplyDelete
  5. Amen Sister! I have said these same things over and over and over again. We are not all furnished with ALL the same choices. If I were singled, I'd have a job. If my husband died, I would need a regular pay check. If I fell called to work outside the home, you better believe I will. We have to stop this nonsense about all choices being right for all people. And All women being the Proverbs 31 woman. Because there is NO ONE Proverbs 31 woman. She is a composite. I could go on. You go on. We shall both go on.

    ReplyDelete
  6. This is great. As a recent WOHM to SAHM convert boy do I miss being a WOHM at times! I guess I never thought of the judgment part. I find myself feeling (being) more "judge-y" towards my increasing number of friends who are choosing to not have kids at all.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thank you for writing this and calling attention to something that needs to be addressed. Kingdom work goes on in the home and outside the home, and we should be cheering our sisters on in whatever work the Lord has given them to do.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Honestly, this is also helpful for me, the single female, who doesn't even have the option to be the mom yet, but wants to be treated as though she has a womanly biblical calling despite having no children.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Love this. And the timing couldn't be more perfect, Jen! From working full-time to sahm & as of this week, working full-time once again...thank you for the encouragement. Resting in God's grace to love Him & my family well as I juggle each day!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I am so grateful for this article. The message of this is reasonable, it is foremost loving, understanding and peaceful. I've heard messages from the pulpit that call women sinners for working and as deeply as I've read the scriptures, no condemnation of the sort exists. Thank you for spotlighting an imbalance we have in our culture.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I appreciate this article , I really do, and I'm convicted about my attitude. However, I don't think it's safe to assume that SAHMs are valued and WOHMs are devalued in every church's culture. In my experience, the role of SAHM was pretty rare and not something of which I was taught to be desirous. I wanted to do REAL ministry, like using my gifts on more than a handful of kids. Thankfully God reoriented my view after more study in the Word and a new church.
    And I agree that moms don't always have to make the supplemental income. My husband has worked 70+ hours a week so I could stay at home and parent our child, and he'd work more if necessary.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hope, thanks for your thoughts. Yes, I hope no one ever assumes something is true in every church's culture - all kinds of bad things come from that. However, in my experience the devaluing of WOHMs is true of many individual church cultures and is generally true of conservative Christian culture, as I believe my opening illustration indicates. This makes it worthy of a conversation. I don't think anyone would argue that moms don't always have to make the supplemental income. Your husband sounds like a great guy.

      Delete
  12. Jen, I can't begin to express how thankful I am for this post! I am an unfortunate member of the former category "must work" and have felt like a leper around other believers. When I got married 4 years ago, I brought with me ALL of my college tuition in loans. My husband added to the pile with his own loans and thousands racked up on a credit card he never should have qualified for. Add in 2 delightful, yet surprising births, and our little family has been financially stretched to the breaking point. My working is optional only as far as we are willing to default on all of our debt--something neither of us want nor believe is honorable if at all avoidable. That being said, my entire paycheck pays only my two young boy's daycare / preschool tuition and a small chunk of debt pay down. Don't get me wrong, I love my job and the people I work with, but I love my boys too and feel constantly torn between providing for their physical needs or for their emotional / spiritual ones. I try to do both, obviously, but I am constantly wrecked with guilt and shame at being the one mom in Home group that doesn't stay home. I feel like it always requires an explanation. The worst part is when my husband and I serve at Little Village and the other moms assume I'm a stay at home mom too. It's humiliating to admit that we can't afford for me to quit but unbarable to let them think that I love my job more than my children. I wish more moms understood how much it hurts not only to have to work but also to have to explain it to everyone as if you were branded with a giant $ on your forehead. Thank you so much for your kind words!

    Jenny

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jenny, as a fellow struggler in a very similar situation my heart goes out to you. And Jen THANK YOU for this blog post. I wrote a similar blog a few months ago at http://strongwomenstudy.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/im-a-working-mom-and-im-a-christian/ . For much of the 4 years that I've had children I've struggled with the guilt/frustration with having to work full time, but through that time I've studied and come to the conclusion that while being a stay at home mom is fantastic, working isn't sin, and in my case is needful. In fact, it improves life for my children and it would be sinful for me not to work. I've determined not to idolize being a SAHM.... and have chosen to love the life God has given me. My kids and I are exactly where HE wants us to be.

      Abbie

      Delete
  13. Yes! I am a SAHM, and it has always bothered me how "we" look down on working moms. It's just not right.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Fantastic article Jen! Not being a mom but hoping that is in my future, this was so encouraging to me! But what I loved the most was that you went back to the heart. Its ALWAYS about the heart. I am not married and not a mom, but I that doesn't exclude me or anyone else from the selfishness and judgemental heart we have due to sin that you talked about so eloquently. Its heartbreaking that no matter what stage of life we are in, we waste so much time trying to justify ourselves, actions, and choices; doing everything we can to prove to the world, each other, and probably more than anyone else: ourselves that we matter and are important. Claiming "I am better than you and this is why..." at the top of our lungs just to hurt and tear down a sister to feel better about where you are. Christ has called us as believers to unity with other believers and to "bear one another's burdens". Thank you for the heart check not only for moms but also for any woman that struggles with selfishness and a judgemental heart on things we simply dont know and it isn't our business to know (or pronounce judgement).
    -Cara

    ReplyDelete
  15. Regardless of our reasons for working or not working, I think as believers we need all agree to this (and what I believe to be the point of your post): The Christ-follower need not put others down in order to be valued, regardless of individual circumstances and calling. Our redemption is sufficient to liberate us from the gerbil wheel of "I'm good (or holy) because I'm better than the next guy (or gal)".

    ReplyDelete
  16. I thought this was a great article, speaking truth to mothers that we desperately need to hear, whether we are working or staying at home. Thank you for not being afraid to tackle a sensitive, potentially prideful subject with grace and humility. I was encouraged!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Always love your writing and your heart. Reaching all moms is so important! My sister-in-law and I were just talking about our experiences in churches past with wanting people to adhere to a certain look and code of actions because then their heart would certainly be following suit... Praying we can continue to make it our goal to share Jesus Christ and the hope and grace He brings to our lives!

    ReplyDelete
  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Thank you so much for this! I'm a WOHM - add to that that I'm also divorced (which for some reason I have to immediately qualify that my divorce was before God saved me) and remarried, my husband of 12 years and I didn't have any children of our own, AND I don't homeschool my kids, I have often felt as though there was just no place for me at the women's ministry table. Your last paragraph brought tears to my eyes!

    ReplyDelete
  20. This is super fantastic. I always wanted to be a SAHM, and for the first six months of my daughter's life, I was. But now I'm back at work, trying to be both, and it's HARD! I realize that I used to judge WOHMs in all the ways that you've said, and now that I'm on the other side, I feel way more compassion. Isn't that how God always works? He does in my life. I don't feel judged by SAHMs as much as I just feel a lack of understanding for how to deal with everything: house and outside work. Whew.

    Bottom line: someone, somewhere is judging you no matter what.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I agree that SAHMs should search their hearts to ensure that they do not look down on any of their sisters for ANY reason. I think that some women do not have a choice about working outside of the home. However, I think that those women are few and far between.

    God clearly states that our primary role should be in the home (Titus 2.) He even says that we should teach our children about Him 24/7 (Deut. 11:19.) Obviously this is impossible if we're working (many SAHMs don't do this either!) Then our kids go to public school and are taught another religion, secular humanism, which ends up making 70% of them leave the church-never to return-after they graduate from high school. (I was a hs science teacher.) Being a SAHM and home schooler doesn't guarantee that your children will beat these odds, but it gives you more opportunities (time) to use God's word to mold your children's hearts than a WOHM has. Home schooling allows you to give your children a biblical worldview, instead of a secular one.

    Most WOHM that I know will admit that they are NOT what the government calls in "poverty." In fact, only 8.8% of those in 8 milllion Americans in poverty are intact families: http://familyfacts.org/charts/327/two-in-five-single-mother-families-are-poor. The people that the government calls in "poverty" have multiple televisions, cable, and internet: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/07/what-is-poverty. Many people in "poverty" simply do not know how to steward their money wisely. I think many Christians, similarly, do not know how to steward their money wisely. All this aside, some women really do NEED to work because they have real financial issues. But many times I have found that many women simply are not willing (or afraid) to give up their standard of living or do not want to give up their self-fulfilling career.

    I say all this as one of two (the other one is the pastor's wife) women who is a SAHM at my church. I feel looked down upon because I chose to be a SAHM. I do not regret my decision. I do NOT think I am able to be a SAHM because I am of "rare socio-economic privilege"-ha-not at all. I think I am simply willing to tighten my belt (not that WOHM aren't-but I think many are enslaved by money. My mom chose to stay at home while my dad was in medical school-it took a long time to pay off all the student loans-but she doesn't regret it for a second.) I think being a SAHM should be every Christian woman's goal as it is the route God reveals in scripture. It is good to hold up such a standard-but you are right that it is NOT okay to build it up as an idol. On the other hand, we should NOT be prideful or look down on those who still work because it really is necessary sometimes.

    The Church should NOT devalue WOHM because sometimes it IS necessary to be one. But I think the Church should encourage women to be SAHM because it is our biblical role. Yes, we must exalt Christ as Lord-which means we must also examine what He says in all things and then, through His grace, do it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't see which part of Titus 2 talks about women staying at home. It says women should be busy at home and the way I understand that is "Just cos you are at home, don't while away your time and waste it in gossip." Which I am afraid a lot of women who stay at home tend to do. When interpreting a verse, it's important to check the context in which a verse is being written....

      Do you think there were no working women in Biblical times? What about the 'maidservants' that the Bible talks about? Ruth was a 'working woman' don't you think?

      Delete
    2. From the Pulpit Commentaries: "Workers at home (οἰκουργούς, for the T.R. οἰκουρούς). Neither word occurs elsewhere in the New Testament or in the LXX., nor does οἰκουργός in classical Greek. But οἰκουρός, which is probably the true reading (Huther), is common in good classical Greek for 'stayers at home.' It is derived from οῖκος and οῦρος, a 'keeper.'"

      Most of the "maid-servants" of the bible were probably slaves, who had no choice but to work. Others were probably unmarried women with no children.

      Ruth gleaned out of financial necessity, before having kids. It would seem rather odd if she continued to work as a farm labourer after marrying Boaz, a wealthy landowner.

      Delete
  22. Jen, Thanks so much for this post! I love your insightful, thought-provoking writing. I think so much of this "debate" has not only been hurtful to Body relationships but also been harmful in clarifying the complementarian perspective. We muddy the waters with smaller issues like SAHM/WOHM that work to pit Xian against Xian. As a result, true Biblical complementarity suffers because it gets misinterpreted or gets known only by the baggage that is attached to it. I also think it's largely cultural because we have so many options in the US where work and homelife are separated. Women have worked for centuries - it was just that home and work were connected by the agricultural nature of things. I have been a SAHM, a ministry mom during our Campus Crusade years, and a part-time WOHM now. I can see pros and cons to all of these options. Thanks again for writing on what can be a touchy subject :)

    ReplyDelete
  23. This article is spot on. Every family has different experiences. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Jen,

    Thank you for posting this. We need to end the Mommy Wars, particularly within the Church. I launched http://www.workingmom.com ten years ago to provide help, resources and encouragement for all moms, and I'm so grateful when my sisters in Christ like you make room at the foot of the Cross for all of the Daughters of the King. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Jen,
    I love the simplicity and clarity with which you have written this. You touched my 'working mommy' heart.
    Bindu

    ReplyDelete
  26. Thank you so much for your article. As a physician, I am one who is called to work outside the home and I appreciate your insights. Keep up the good work!

    ReplyDelete
  27. Just stumbled upon your blog today (and then realized I had read your "permitted or pursued" post which I also loved). Thanks so much for the humility and honesty of this post. After 3+ years of parenting, I'm finally starting to feel free from the guilt (some put on me by myself and some from the Christian subculture you speak of) about working and being a mom. I'm don't have an acronym that sums me up (I'm home more than I am at work but I still work outside the home). I grew up being taught by my church community that working moms were selfish moms. This was really hard to get over when God made it clear that it was time to grow our family but we were still in a position where my income was needed to make ends meet. I still struggle with the guilt sometimes and with the insecurity of having people think I'm selfish (which I am but because I'm human not because I work). God has provided for our family as it has grown and grown over the past few years. He knows what He is doing and I'm thankful for the jobs He has provided for my husband and myself.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I've been looking for an article regarding this issue for years! All of the ones that dealt with this highly debated topic was an extreme for one side or the other and no one articulated it as well as you did. I fall under called in to work by God category. Although I still hold hope that one day very soon I'll be a SAHM.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not going to talk to the should you or shouldn't you work outside of the home issue here but I do want to ask you SorJen, why are you under the called in to work by God category, when you "hope" that one day very soon you'll be a SAHM? If you, and I dare not judge, are a Christian, living according to God's commands, and seeking His will, I ask how can you be "called" to the work force, when He is placing a desire in your heart (a good and biblical one) to be a SAHM? That would be where I would start? It is possible to be a Christian whether we work outside the home or not, and the argument on here as to who's holier than the other is foolish..... In any situation that I find myself in with someone else, I need to remind myself that I put Christ on the cross.... It was my sins. When put in that perspective how can I not have grace for another mother, one who works outside the home, or one who is super mom inside the home.

      Delete
  29. While it is true that everyone is responsible for making their own decisions about how they provide for a nurture their family, there is a reason why the churches have made a virtue of being a stay-at-home-mum - the principles are sound (remember we must look to the spirit and not the letter of the law - that means applying the principles instead of saying "show me where it says thou shalt not work"). Churches may not have always promoted that virtue in the right way, but the same could be said for all of us and our strongly held convictions. And if the church has inspired feelings of guilt that have prompted us to delve into our Bibles to "work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12) so much the better. After all, that's where we're ultimately supposed to go for guidance - Scripture, not Pastor.

    I believe there are a couple of main points that need to be considered when it comes to the question of mothers working outside the home, two of which I'll expand on here a little. One relates to the financial situation and that is, at what point do we actually start trusting God to supply all our material needs? Have we considered that God's idea of our material needs may be different to ours? Are we willing to accept His standards for our lives? I'm sure we've all said to God at some point in our lives (I know I have many times), "God, if you do this, I will do this". It took me far too long to realise how faithless I was. God does not reward faithlessness. Abram believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6). If we believe God and strive for His ideal, actively pursue it regardless of cost, do we really think He will forsake us? Do we really think that making sacrifices to follow God will disadvantage our children?

    Another point to consider is authority. When a woman works outside the home it is usually also outside her husband's authority. My question is, is it wise for a woman to put herself under the authority of someone other than her husband? We are supposed to be "one flesh" with our husbands. Working outside of our husband's authority will never improve our marriage relationship. At best it can only hinder growth as a couple. And we know that the best thing for our children is a thriving marriage. All of us will attest that relationships are far more important that material wealth, but how many of us exchange the latter for the former? Why do we expect that following God will be easy? He didn't promise that, but He did promise rewards. Where does our treasure really lie?

    I hope people don't resent me for what I've said. I hope they'll instead use the questions I've raised as another opportunity to search the Scriptures and their own hearts. Remember that our hearts are deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9) and we must weigh up our feelings with what we know from Scripture. If there is conflict don't go with your gut, go with Scripture.

    NB. While these principles are universal, they are much harder to apply to single mothers. And this is one area that we, the church, have neglected badly. But until we get our "traditional" families on the right track, it is going to virtually impossible to give single mothers the proper support that they need.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your second point seems a bit odd to me. A married woman will be under plenty of authorities "outside of" her husband: her pastor, the government, etc. That does not mean she is being an unsubmissive wife! Goodness. To be under our husbands' authority specifically relates to matters of marriage and family, to honor his leadership there. It doesn't preclude our being "under" other figures. I would agree that the marriage comes first, but question your assumption that working outside of the home puts a woman in conflict with her husband's leadership.

      Delete
  30. So very true. I have often been told by well-meaning Christians that the woman's place is at home. That that is God's plan. In fact, one of them directed me to Proverbs 31 as proof that a woman needed to be at home. I am so glad I revisited Proverbs 31 on that note. Because what Proverbs 31 talks about is a busy and hard working woman who supports her family and her husband. The woman is a HELPER to the man. If she can do it from within her home, great. I did that for 4 years as a freelance writer, but I had that option BECAUSE I am a writer. What if I weren't a writer who could work from just about anywhere?

    @ those here who've said that it's best for women stay at home: it's your call. there's NOTHING in the Bible to support that claim. God gives us the gift of free choice. Both men and women I believe are called to achieve their God given potential. One should not pursue their careers above God and that is true for men and women. I would say that women should not pursue their careers by sacrificing their families. But finding a balance is not impossible. I have had to forego higher paying jobs and roles because I did not want to compromise the time I spend with my family, because I believe that I should place the needs of my family above the demands of my job. Sure, I get bypassed during a promotion, but that's ok. I know that the fact that I too have a job has been of immense help to my husband who would otherwise have been under severe pressure to make ends meet.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Good reading, thank you to all who have shared. I am "new" to the work field. After being home for 27 years I am now in the work field and know that this is how I am being my husbands "helpmeet". He has worked in construction for 40 something years and after raising our children with the exception of our youngest who we adopted after our daughter was killed in a car accident. This is the season my husband has askd for "help". Our son is nine, and our eldst daughter has stepped in to help with the cares of him after school. It is such a blessing to see how the Lord works in our lives when we set aside our expectations, and our ideas. He has been so faithful to teach me so much during all the seasons of my life. I struggle wit hguild at times because I "think" this isn't biblical, only because I was a devoted stay at home mom and judged others who worked, and thought for a time that being a stay at home mom, homeschooling, cooking everything from scratch, sewing the clothes and all the other stuff was the "only" way and was full of pride.
    I am thankful thay the Lord doesn't judge us according to what we deserve, and I will continue to passionatley seek HIM and HIM alone and not others opinions. I can say that I have a greater compassion for those who balance it all. Let's be women of the word who encourages others according to "their" needs, and not what we think they need.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Great post Jen....I tell everyone who ever refers to themselves as a stay-at-home-mom that they are "human development specialists." Lets change the perspective of the world

    ReplyDelete
  33. Our family serves overseas in a VERY large metropolitan city. We lead a team focusing on a very difficult group in a situation where we have to do a secular job in order to even live in this place. Often, we have Mom's that are so stressed because of expectations they have of what the "perfect" Christian family should look like. However, there just aren't enough hours in the day to do language study, run a business, meet new people and develop relationships, have one hour + Bible time, family night, Sabbath Sunday, dinner on the table with everyone seated around it by 7, clean house, shopping, homeschool, local school, or international school, kids in stimulating activities, daddy at home reading to them nightly, and on and on I could go. ALL of these are great but they become burdensome and idols when we exalt them to define good "Christian" families. I have begun to ask myself when I am stressed about something I think I should be doing but am not..."Am I saying to the women that I wish to reach for Christ, either by my words otherwise, that they can only have a joyful Christ exalting family if they...???" Most of the women in our community could never attain this June Cleaver status. What is essential? Am I doing that? If God makes a way for me to add to that something that seems to be right for our family at that time, how do I talk about it? Do I become like the pharisees and add a yolk that my sisters were never meant to bear or do I inspire them to love Jesus more and cling to Him? The older I get the more I long for heaven, Eden restored and there is no need for a sun.

    ReplyDelete
  34. I hate to say it but i disagree with you. :( I don't know how its reasonable to expect to shepherd the hearts of your children as Gods word calls us to, without BEING WITH them. And its not about just having the status of SAHM, but having it be your calling as well. Many sahms assume the status without the heart and sense of calling, and it shows, sadly. If you have young kids your calling is to love and nurture them, which can truly only be done in a deep relationship, which takes TIME and PRESENCE that are not available to a full time working mom.

    ReplyDelete
  35. I appreciate the insights of this article. As a SAHM I think we should work to break down the dividing wall of jealousy and judgments and create a biblical support system for each other. See "Letter to a Working Mom from a Stay-at-Home Mom: 5 Promises."
    http://gospelcenteredmom.blogspot.com/2014/10/letter-to-working-mom-from-stay-at-home.html

    ReplyDelete
  36. I agree that judging others is usually an unloving and sinful thing to do. We don't know the situation or heart of another. We ought to generally avoid it. I do want to say, that there is a design for the family that is a powerful and vital witness, the Gospel by example. The first institution God made is the family and all other institutions have depended on that (though that is rapidly changing - and things are becoming chaotic!). The design for marriage and the family, and for the identity and relations between men and women God has described and clearly values in His Word. That design is the complementary roles of husband and wife/man and woman, the godly leadership, protection, and provision of men (including but not limited to husbands) complemented by the respectful submission and help of women (including but not only, wives) appropriate to the relationship they are in. When a wife works, her priority has to be to some other enterprise and someone else often another man. I think it is possible to work with a godly attitude of submitting to and helping one's husband. Certainly it is possible to work as a single woman according to these truths. But often, working can nurture an independent spirit in a woman and undermine a man's full sense of who he is in Gods image; we may not be helping him when we do what he is designed to do.To a watching, unbelieving world, it is a relief. We often look just like them and they are not convicted. It is a world full of sin and so are we...it is impossible to do anything perfectly and often even really well (praise God for His mercy to us!). But I do think, in our ever growing process of becoming more like Him by our loving obedience and His power, we can all aim to more fully reflect His design for marriage and the family each in our own unique situations. In addition, trusting Him, with wisdom, to provide for us as we do make choices to more closely follow His design gives Him a chance to really show His amazing power and care for us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm concerned that you're concerned about women developing an independent spirit (!) -- that is truly your fear? I don't think an independent spirit needs must indicate a lack of submission.

      Delete
  37. I love the volume of people who say "yes, great article ... but seriously, being a SAHM is key and the right way to live." This is a complicated issue. Every family is different. Every family has its owns up and downs and ability or lack thereof to have a parent at home. I encourage everyone who responds with the "great, but ... " response to consider the realm of experience beyond their own.

    ReplyDelete