The truth about
the ministry of motherhood — whether you
work inside or outside the home.
you are a stay-at-home mom:
grateful. You are indeed blessed.
a good steward of your time and keep reassessing your
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.
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
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.
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
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.
Basics to a
here or call
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
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
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).
Carmichael and her husband, Bill, are founding publishers of
Christian Parenting Today magazine. They live in Camp
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