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The truth about working moms

Embracing the ministry of motherhood — whether you
work inside or outside the home.

By Nancie Carmichael


If you are a stay-at-home mom:

• Be grateful. You are indeed blessed.

• Be a good steward of your time and keep reassessing your priorities.

• Don’t judge someone who works outside the home. Put yourself in her shoes and appreciate what your “sister” in the workplace is going through. There are many days she envies you — wishes she could put on jeans and have peanut butter sandwiches with her children. Don’t be jealous — instead, pray for her, and take time to be her friend and prayer partner.

• Make sure you get fed spiritually, knowing you cannot minister to others if you are not being fed. Get involved in a Bible study or a Mothers of Preschoolers group where you can develop godly friends.


We had just moved to a new neighborhood as my husband had taken a position with a missions organization which required him to travel a lot. Here I was in a new city and a new neighborhood with four sons under 8 years of age. I was lonely and bored, and I missed my friends and old church. I missed all the activity; yes, even the phone ringing off the wall. As a pastor’s wife, I didn’t get paid for what I did, but I was busy. I loved the people and the social demands. I loved teaching Bible study. To be honest, I loved the “identity” of being a pastor’s wife. Now I was just another mom at home on the block.

I remember standing at my new kitchen sink, my hands in soapy water, praying, “Lord, I need a ministry. Something to really sink my teeth into!” At that very moment my 3-year-old son tugged at my jeans. “Mommy,” Chris said, “will you play this game with me?”

It seemed that God was saying: So you want something to really sink your teeth into? How about the ministry of mothering? I knew God was talking to me. I sat down and played the game with Chris. Now, as I look back, I am so grateful for those years I had at home with my children. I began to realize a truth: I had been too busy — even with church-related service — to focus on my most important ministry, that of mothering. I accepted that calling wholeheartedly and threw everything into raising my children. After my youngest was in school, I started to work again in a magazine office, fully satisfied that I had met God’s challenge.

Sometime ago I sat in a circle of young moms over coffee. “What’s your opinion on whether mothers should work outside the home?” I asked, knowing it was a loaded question.

Nancy Lee, an attractive African-American woman laughed, incredulous at my asking. “Most of the women I know don’t have the luxury to debate that,” she said. Nancy Lee’s husband is a successful businessman, but she has a part-time job and, like most of us, juggles kids, work and school schedules.

Cathy, a young mother of three, was adamant. “My mother worked all my growing-up years, and I will do all I can to stay home with my children.”

Debbie, a single mother, sighed. “How I would love to be home, but it’s not an option for me. I would at least like more flexibility in my work schedule.”

Sharon, a mother of two teenagers asked quietly, “Do I dare admit my family is better off when I do work?”

We all laughed, understanding. One thing we agreed on: We are not living our mothers’ lives.


If you are a working-outside-the-home mom:

• Make sure your childcare provider supports your values. Go with your instincts.

• Learn to discern what’s worth your time, but don’t delete the important things. Do your best to be faithful to church activities that build your children, such as Sunday School, VBS and summer camp.

• Let some things go. You can clean house thoroughly any old time. Ask for help from family, husband, friends. Delegate.

• See that you get fed spiritually. Take time for friendship, or to pray with other moms. If you must, have your prayer group via e-mail. Where “two or three are gathered” may require some creativity.

• Appreciate what your “sister” who is staying at home with her children is going through. Often people assume because she is at home she can be the room mother, organize the food for the church dinner, and care for everyone else’s children. Her time is precious, too.



Women’s lives are so varied these days. The trend now is for women to go to college and have careers before they start their families. Many women are having their first babies later in life. Some dads are staying home with their children if the moms have better-paying jobs. The Internet is changing the shape of the workplace for many as home-based businesses are on the rise. We could argue that we don’t “need” as much materially as we think we do — which is, in some ways, true. But just using a car, dealing with regular medical and dental expenses, preparing for looming college bills and meeting rising housing costs often requires a two-income family.

What is not debatable is that our children must be our first priority. Our ministry, if you will.

It’s tough to be a working mom. I know — I’ve been there. And it’s also tough to be a stay-at-home mom, as I’ve been there, too. But frankly, I have a problem with the title “working mom.” If you’re a mother, you work! The truth is that being a mom is the most wonderful, difficult job there is and we must not be legalistic about what it means to “work outside the home.” It’s time to focus on principle — time to keep the “main thing the main thing.”

There are stay-at-home moms who don’t really stay at home. They’re at meetings, at the mall, at the school, at the gym, at the church. It’s possible for a “stay-at-home” mother to be so busy with other activities that her children do not get the time they need from her — even though she is not “working.” And there are also stay-at-home mothers who are pouring their hearts and souls into their families. They are real heroes.

The same could be said about mothers who are in the workplace. Some of them are missing out on their children’s lives as their work has become their first priority. Then there are working moms who manage to make their children their first priority in spite of their work and set a wonderful example to their children.

It is possible for women to work outside the home and stilldo a good job of parenting. When I was working outside the home, I tended to be more efficient because I had to be. Karen, an OB-GYN nurse and mom of two, said they had a family meeting and all decided to pare down their activities so they could have at least three nights at home as a family, to sit down at dinner and have quality time.

The chief benefit of being at home, of course, is time, our most precious commodity. It is well documented that the early years of a child’s life are critical. Our adopted daughter spent her first three and a half years in a poor orphanage in Korea where there was one worker per 12 to 15 children. That environment created deficits in her life that are difficult to recoup. You never get those years back.

Last year I surveyed more than 40 women in midlife. One of the questions I asked was, “As you look back, what are you glad you did?” The most frequent response was, “I’m glad I stayed home with my kids.” It is true — our children are in our care for such a short time.

Six Basics to a
Balanced Life

Carol Kent

Managing Your Time
for Moms
Erin Healy

Mothering without Guilt
Sharon Hersh


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What is it that you treasure?

Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21, NIV). The question is not whether you work full-time or part-time or are a stay-at-home mother. It isn’t whether you breast-feed or bottle-feed, or homeschool or use public schooling. The real question is, “What is it that you treasure?”

To treasure means to nourish, to protect, to nurture — to guard something exceedingly precious. Whatever is precious to us becomes our priority. I’ve learned to periodically take a hard look at my home, at myself as a mother, and ask, “What is home like for my children and my husband? For all those who live here?” I’ve had to reassess at times because life and schedules change. Our children require different things from us at different stages of their lives.

Life-shaping things happen at home

Raising children isn’t just babysitting. The majority of broken lives in prison were denied the benefits of a loving home, a home that celebrated their existence. Government spends up to $60,000 or more per year per inmate to care for broken lives. In ordinary, daily family life, children learn profound lessons: healthy relationships; godly character; respect for authority, God and the church; self-respect and self-esteem; creativity; and a love of learning, reading and music.

Think about it. Your children — real, unique people — are in your care for the briefest of times. And the greatest ministry we have is being able to introduce our children to Jesus. Does what we do as moms make that easier or more difficult?

When my children were small, in the exhausted moments before I fell into bed, many times I felt overwhelmed by my inadequacy and sometimes guilt. Did I do it all wrong? But this sense of being “over my head” as a mom in these challenging days forced me to lean hard on this verse: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5,6, NKJV).

It may seem that yesterday’s rules no longer apply, but God’s Word has not changed. He is still faithful and His grace is still sufficient. God sees our hearts, and when we seek Him first, no matter what we feel people expect of us, we can trust Him with the outcome. Regardless of our circumstances, we must remember: We are the Lord’s, and our children are His, too. As Hannah, Samuel’s mother said, “For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. Therefore I also have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:27,28).

Nancie Carmichael and her husband, Bill, are founding publishers of Christian Parenting Today magazine. They live in Camp Sherman, Ore.

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