All moms work! Make no mistake! There is no debate here. All moms work long hours; they are underpaid, understaffed, and underappreciated. They work long hours and know emotional and physical fatigue far more than many men who go out to a daily 8-5 job.
The question, however, relates to women who also work outside the home while trying to raise a family. Is this Scriptural? Is it wise?
There are no easy answers to this. Many women, through circumstances beyond their control, have been cast into the role of “bread-winner.” For some it is through being a single-mom. For others, illness or disability has reduced a spouse to a point where he is no longer able to work. The only recourse is for her to become the means of support for the family. Many in this role would gladly relinquish it if they were able.
What of others, who for personal reasons, have chosen the work-world instead of raising their own children? Is it wrong for a woman who is raising children to also hold down a position at work?
The Danger of Judging Motives
It would be quite easy and convenient to immediately condemn all working mothers, as being materialistic and negligent, in their pursuit of a career. It would shorten this article to simply state that all such are out of the mind of God and should be home with their children. But we must be slow to judge motives. Each individual will have to search her own heart before God as to the motive for her actions. If raising children and home responsibilities are too boring or too prosaic, then the action is not spiritually healthy. If a career is desired because rasing children is not enough of a “challenge,” then not only is the decision not spiritually healthy, but the thinking is not reality based! Raising children will demand the utmost from any mother. It will tax every faculty and talent which a woman possesses. Her ingenuity, creativity, organizational skills, negotiating, self-discipline, along with a myriad of other skills will all receive their greatest tests in this arena. To move from the position of a mother in the home to the president or CEO of a large international corporation, is actually a step down, not up.
But it is not for me to judge motives (1 Cor 4:5). That is between the soul and God. Each married couple must examine the need for a working mother. Is it due to a life style which is beyond their means? Is it a desire for “things” which could be sacrificed for the sake of a mother in the home? Would the help, appreciation, and support of a husband help to satisfy a wife’s need for a sense of accomplishment?
The Danger of Juggling Responsibilities
There are issues, however, of which we can speak with certainty in light of the Word of God. Titus 2 teaches us that a woman’s sphere of greatest usefulness is in the home. Likewise, 1 Timothy 2:15 adds to this emphasis, the suggestion that outside the home, in the work force, there may be dangers to which she is exposed. When referring to the widows in 1 Timothy 5, Paul states that the younger women should “marry, bear children, guide the house …” ( v 14). In his expression, “guide the house,” there is the idea of the “ruler of the home.” This is her sphere; here she is able to express all the qualities with which God has endowed her. Here is where she shines.
There is no question that raising a family is a full time job. A mother’s sensitivity to her children, her intuitiveness as to human nature and needs, and her skill in establishing and deepening relationships, all make this her place of greatest blessing. To forsake this and to seek satisfaction or fulfillment elsewhere is to depart from a Scriptural pattern established by God.
There are those who work outside the home who bravely seek to juggle home and career responsibilities. Baby sitters, live-in nannies, and after school programs, all substitute for the care and nurturing which a mother can give. Again, with caution I need to add that if circumstances beyond a mother’s control necessitate this, then the Lord is able to compensate. But how tragic when a child’s first word, “mama,” is spoken to a nanny rather than the real mother! How sad if priorities have been lost and we begin to think that career and titles are more important than raising children for the Lord. However good the baby sitter or nanny, it is unlikely they will pour into a child’s ear the Scriptural truths which are so vital in early years.
In the end it does come down to priorities. It is obvious that the “virtuous woman” of Proverbs 31 was a woman with a keen business sense. But it is equally obvious that she had the priority of her family before her in all that she did. All the Scriptures quoted could be marshaled together to stress that the priority for every mother should be her family. If work is necessary, can it be arranged so that the mother is home when there are babies at home or school aged children? Is there a form of work which could be done from home?
Danger of Joining the Work Force
Most sociologists agree that one of the greatest forces changing the landscape of North American society has been the entrance of the woman into the work force. It has not only changed the family, but has changed the workplace as well. While sociology is not our concern, spirituality is. The workplace exposes women to the morals, ethics, competitiveness, fashions, language, and thinking of the world. Single sisters must work to support themselves. Men are also exposed to this in their work as well. But all of these are there by the plan of God. He will enable them to stand, if they are cast upon Him. But it is never wise to move out of God’s sphere into another and then to ask for preservation. Yes, He is able to preserve and does preserve in His mercy. But moving out of my sphere is tantamount to tempting the Lord (Matt 4:7).
The safest path is the Scriptural path; whenever possible, a mother should place first the raising of her family, especially during their years of growth. God will reward and honor all who, in obedience and faithfulness to the divine pattern, seek to raise a family for God. Appreciation and rewards may not pour in from every corner. The title of “mother” may not look impressive on a resume; and the salary may not add a new car to the garage, a summer home to the estate, or a few more dollars to the portfolio, but it will bring His recognition in a coming day.