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How to Decide If You Should Be a Stay-at-Home Mom or a Working One



As we collectively seek to flatten the curve of COVID-19, all of us who are sheltering in place with our children are adjusting to an extreme version of stay-at-home mom-life. For some, this time may feel like a unique gift of increased connection as a family, and for others it may feel like a jail sentence. 

If you are like me, you oscillate back and forth between those two experiences several times throughout each day. 

This is an unusual experience for all of us. However your life looked before, whether that was working in the home or outside of it, your normal routine has been upset and you are likely living in a pressure cooker of home and/or work strain.

Nonetheless, perhaps this strange season can serve as an opportunity to rethink your previous status quo. Has quarantine life exasperated an internal itch for you to pursue a calling outside the home? Or for those moms who normally go to work, have these days at home instilled a wish for it to remain that way when things return to normal?

Let’s use this time as a catalyst for reassessing the way that we steward the resources and talents God has uniquely given us as moms, women, and beloved children of God. 

Read on for four guidelines to help prime the pump in reconsidering your vocation on the other side of this pandemic. 

1. Recognize Your Value and Responsibility

We all enter the world with an innate desire to make a difference.

Beginning with Adam’s role of naming the animals in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2, God designed humans for work and impact. As parents, our children are an undeniably significant part of our work as laborers for the kingdom of God (1 Timothy 5:8).

Parenthood serves as a way for us to reflect God’s character as a caring parent to His children. Just read Isaiah 66 to see the beautiful analogy of a mother’s care for a baby as a picture of how God tenderly sustains and comforts His people 

But, as important as this role is, it isn’t our only role—and the practical fulfillment of our responsibilities as parents varies from family to family. In today’s culture, mothers in particular seem to bear the brunt of social pressure and judgment in regard to this decision 

Should a mom spend her time primarily in the home or in the workplace? What about single moms or households that require both parents to work? While the Bible does not prescribe one specific work-home structure as intrinsically better than the other, each family ought to employ the wisdom of Scripture, personal discernment, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to determine what arrangement is best for them. 

In Luke 19 Jesus tells the parable of the 10 minas, wherein a group of servants are allotted differing amounts of money, but each person is expected to steward their goods in a way that is faithful.

This story teaches us that we are all called to serve the Lord faithfully with whatever set of cards that we have been dealt.

As image-bearers of a multifaceted God, it is vital to the welfare of ourselves, our families, and our community that we take our individual qualities into consideration and submit them to the Lord in the ordering of our lives. We will discuss below how to practically do this. 

2. Remember That the Work of Motherhood Is Less Glamorous, but No Less Important to God

It’s true that much of the work of motherhood can feel mundane, especially in comparison to other vocations. However, we must remember that faithfulness to the Lord’s specific calling in your life will not always appear impressive by the world’s standards.

The process of raising children is a sacred and beautiful task, but it rarely feels that way after the thirteenth read-through of “Brown Bear, Brown Bear,” with an aura of dry shampoo flaking from your hair and crusted spit-up stains collecting on your leggings.

Nonetheless, oftentimes that’s how important work appears in God’s economy: unseen, monotonous, and presumably insignificant. Jesus loves to break our categories for importance.

When we don’t have a hold on how valuable our work is to God, it can be tempting to look for validation elsewhere—especially in the working world. There is a difference between working a job because it is lifegiving to you and supports your family, and working a job just because it makes you feel important and validates you in ways your family doesn’t.

Thank God we are free to know this distinction! 

Brother Lawrence was a Parisian monk from the 1600s who spent much of his time working in the kitchen to serve his fellow brothers in the Carmelite Order. Despite his lowly and humble role, he continues to inspire others with this famous quote: 

"The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clutter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Sacrament." 

In the same way, we can honor God with how we spend our time, and invite Him into it as our strength, confidence, and comfort. Regardless of how lowly or unfit it may appear to others, your work truly matters, both in this kingdom and the next.

Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/The Honest Company

3. Consider Your Options 

God has designed each of us with unique passions and skills which reflect His own diverse image. As finances, family dynamics, interests, and even sleep patterns change from season to season, the nature of your work as a mom will likewise evolve.

The various paths that mothers can take are not black and white: even the definition of a working mom and stay at home mom is a sliding scale that adjusts alongside the dynamic nature of motherhood.

Between the wide range of options and the natural tendency toward “mom guilt,” it can feel overwhelming to navigate the responsibility of being a present and loving mother without neglecting the other parts of your personality and strengths.

However, it’s not all up to us to figure out. With a little hopeful imagination, humility to utilize the help of your community, and surrendering unto the Lord, you will find that there is immense joy and freedom to be found on the path to ordering your life as a mom. 

Find a quiet corner (which, granted, is no small feat during a quarantine), take out a journal and start listing the things that feel lifegiving to you.

For now, don’t worry about the practicality of logistics. Just write out anything that comes to mind. It can be hard to identify and name your own strengths, especially when it feels like you are stuck in a mundane routine of diaper changes and dishes.

So, reach out to a few people who know you well: maybe your spouse, a sibling, and a trusted friend. Muster your courage and ask them to name a few skills and talents that they see in you. Notice what themes emerge and compare them to your own list of life-giving interests. 

Most importantly, invite the Lord into this process. Psalm 37:4 instructs, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” This well-known verse highlights an important principle when it comes to the ordering of our lives as faithful stewards: you have to get your motives straight.

What are the reasons for your current arrangement of staying at home or working? Does it feel financially necessary? Is there a societal expectation that you are seeking to uphold? Do other alternatives feel unreachable?

As you consider these underlying factors and seek the guidance of the Spirit and God’s Word, your priorities will become aligned with His. The comforts that come from a dual income household may become less important, or an ambition that you have been shushing will drive you to pursue an opportunity outside of your comfort zone.

Girded with repentance and confidence in He “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20), surrender your desires unto Him and you will become increasingly joyful in adopting His will for your life. 

Perhaps you will identify a new interest that can be shared together as a family, or maybe a dormant skill to pursue on your own.

Whether your kids are participating with you or not, carving out some brainspace for honing your passions will be good for everyone in your family.

Start small. Even dedicating an hour a month to those healthy outlets will nourish your own humanity, contribute to your community, and honor the Lord.  

4. Know Your True Freedom 

Parenthood necessitates the practice of dying to yourself as you adjust your expectations and relinquish the control that you expected to have.

Some days it can make it seem like the walls are closing in. That painful sensation of laying down your own agenda begins often even before you meet your child: pregnancy complications throw you for a loop.

Your birth plan gets thrown out the window when a surprising visit to the OB sends you straight to the hospital for an induction. Your baby doesn’t follow the sleep-wake-eat pattern that the parenting books says he is supposed to. A child with special needs necessitates that you leave the job you love in order to stay home.

Or, you long to stay home but you just can’t seem to make ends meet without returning to work. It can feel like you are in bondage to your circumstances, or to a call that you’d rather not have. It seems like the antithesis of freedom.  

The surprise, though, is that this pattern of self-denial which feels like constriction actually produces the opposite result: freedom for your soul as you learn to trust in God and surrender to your plans unto Him: 

“You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’" (Galatians 5:13-14).

You have freedom, not to do whatever you want, but to choose the path that honors God as the person He made you to be within the community that He has called you to live. 

There is no silver bullet for an easy life. Whether you work in the home, out of the home, or some combination of the two, you are guaranteed to experience difficulty and exhaustion as a mom, and ultimately as a human being living in a finite world.

The Scriptures repeatedly affirm that pain and struggle is inevitable for the life of a believer. And yet, God also promises that He will protect and preserve us in the midst of hardship (Psalm 34:19-20).

Though it is not easy, the good work that He has in store for each of us, whatever that may be, is exactly the kind of lasting purpose and fulfillment for which our souls thirst. 

Fellow moms: seek the Lord and surrender your work unto Him. He is the One who delights in you, directs your steps, and completes your work for the sake of His glory.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/monkeybusinessimages

Julie Davis is a retired ballet dancer-turned-homeschool mom of 3 young daughters. Her passion is for walking alongside fellow believers and reminding them of the grace and power of the Gospel in their lives. She loves to ponder and laugh at the adventures of life and motherhood via her Instagram and blog. Julie and her husband George live in Richmond, Virginia and enjoy hosting friends, getting outside, and sipping on moderately priced bourbon.

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