Should Mom Take An Outside Job?

There was never too much that made my mom angry. But, if I told you her age, she’d probably hire a hit on me. I guess it’s just something about Southern ladies of that generation—they don’t miss beauty parlor appointments and they don’t discuss their age. Soooo, suffice it to say, Mama lived long enough for her “three score and ten” to be a vague, distant memory. Thankfully, the Lord gave her good health for most of those years.

However, the past few years have been pretty tough. Several times she became so sick that we were afraid we might lose her. But, just like the Phoenix, Mom pulled through each time. She would describe her improved condition by saying that she finally felt safe buying green bananas again!

On February 15 of this year, Jesus relieved Mom of her suffering and brought her home. For us, it wasn’t as much a funeral as a graduation ceremony.

Because of her struggles, the last couple of years have been filled with a lot of poignant moments for me. On a number of occasions I wandered through her house and remembered good days of childhood. I couldn’t begin to tell you how many afternoons Mom and I sat together at the round table in the kitchen after school. She seemed to always be at home when I came through the door. Usually she had cookies and Kool-Aid or an RC Cola ready. She always had time to sit and listen as I told her about my day.

Mom was always good at building memories, too. She instinctively knew what made a little boy’s eyes twinkle. The other day my mind trailed back to the time Mom helped me build a fire engine in the back yard. Equipped with an old washing machine hose, I’d hang my head through the kitchen window and extinguish imaginary fires.
She always had time to talk (and listen) to a little guy who was just beginning to size up the world around him. I still smile when I remember the trip to the forest behind our home. We sat on a fallen log and shared homemade brownies—and great conversation.

Even as a teenager, my mother intuitively knew that I still needed her mentoring. She always had time to go for rides in the car with me—and listen to my dreams. There were some difficult times through those years, but Mom was always rock solid and available. She stayed involved in my life, and was never shy about giving her opinion. And, if that opinion needed re-enforcement, she could flip open a chapter and verse proof text faster than I could say, “Give me a break, Mom!”

Early Choices That Make Big Differences

My parents made a tough decision when they decided that Mother would stay at home and be a full-time Mom. They had all sorts of pressures to do otherwise. For one thing, Mom had distinguished herself in the professional world. Her old employer was always inviting her to come back. Add to that the fact, that my folks really could have used the money. My dad’s insurance business was young. It would be years before it got of the ground. The cost of financing a young family in those post-war years was a real strain.

So, my dad simply decided to pay the price. He left earlier, skipped lunches, and worked a little later than my friends’ dads. At the time I didn’t understand why, but now I’m glad he did. You see my mom and dad were a team. And the number one goal in their lives was to raise three children in a secure, loving, Christ-centered home. To them, that meant that Mom would be there 24/7. They saw the job of mothering as primary. Nothing else came first.

Dad passed away eighteen years ago. But I know that if he were here today, he would agree with Mom that it was one of the best decisions they ever made. I’m thankful to the Lord that Shirley, Sharon, and I had a Full-time Mom!

The Calling

Today, the average worker in America spends nearly 77,000 hours on the job over a lifetime. That’s a lot of time! And the fact is, no one can be in two places at once. So the question is, where do you want to invest that time? Where will it be most beneficial? Where will it do the most good? When life comes to an end, I’ve never known anyone to say, “Boy, I wish I’d put in more hours building my career.” But, many people have spoken regretfully that they didn’t log more time with the family—especially when the children were small and needed them the most. Those early years are so important. Experts estimate that 85% of people who accept Christ do so before age fifteen.

Author and psychologist, Dr. James Dobson has blessed millions of people with his advice and insights for over three decades. Through a relationship that a firm I once owned had with Dobson’s Focus on the Family, I have grown to respect both the organization, and the man behind it even more. They are soldiers on the front line defending the cause of the traditional family. When Dr. Dobson speaks, I listen. In his clear, succinct way, he summed the importance of children up this way:

“Children are not casual guests in our homes. They have been loaned to us temporarily for the purpose of loving them and instilling a foundation of values on which their future lives will be built.”

To this day, my sisters and I are still reaping the benefits that came from my mother’s decision to stay home to raise and nurture us. Our parents realized that a mother’s role was far more than a job—it was a calling of the highest order.

Why Women Work
With the benefits of staying home so great, one has to ask, “Why are so many women leaving home and hearth for the job market?” From what I’ve seen, I believe there are at least five reasons mothers go to work:

1) Search for Fulfillment and Challenge. Some women simply are not convinced that staying at home with their children maximizes their skills and talents. Women in this group often fall into one of two categories: High achievers who want the challenge of the marketplace; and women who feel under appreciated by their husbands. A couple of thoughtless remarks by a husband about how he is the one bringing home the paycheck can destroy a woman’s self respect. Suddenly, it isn’t just the society around her that’s minimizing her value—it’s also her own husband! Value is not based on the number of dollars earned. It is based on the good that is accomplished. Loving husbands need to keep their wives reminded of the value they bring to the family by nurturing and training their children.

Now, a word to that first group of achievement-oriented women: There is nothing wrong with you! Please don’t misconstrue any of my comments as being critical of women who are highly talented and capable. God made you that way. It’s a gift to be embraced and used to His glory. Many Godly women in this category have found ways to meet both their children’s, and their own, needs. Today, it’s easier than ever before. Many such women have started successful home businesses that provide the challenge of the marketplace while allowing them to be with their kids. If you are one of these women—go for it! After all, you have good Scriptural precedent. Take a look at the woman in Proverbs 31:10-31:

“An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life. She looks for wool and flax, and works with her hands in delight. She is like merchant ships; she brings her food from afar. She rises also while it is still night, and gives food to her household, and portions to her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; from her earnings she plants a vineyard. She girds herself with strength, and makes her arms strong. She senses that her gain is good; her lamp does not go out at night. She stretches out her hands to the distaff, and her hands grasp the spindle. She extends her hand to the poor; and she stretches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of the snow for her household, for all her household are clothed with scarlet. She makes coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies belts to the tradesmen. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future. She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her, saying, ‘Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.’ Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.”

Wow, what a gal!!! This lady blessed everyone in her family—and ran a successful business to boot! Her focus was on her family—9 of the 22 verses refer directly to her work at home. In addition to being a partner to her husband (vv 11, 28, 29), she ran a real estate and farming business, and she was in the garment industry (vv 16-18, 24). This was one goal-oriented, success-focused woman!

2) Social Pressures. Often, women who otherwise would love to be with their children, become convinced that they should remain in the job market. Society and the media present a compelling case for not accepting a more traditional approach to child rearing. There seems to be a massive effort afoot to minimize the damage done to children whose mothers leave home. The message comes through loud and clear that today’s woman can capably nurture kids and do battle in the workplace. I have yet to see convincing data to support this.

3) Money. Many women (and their husbands) are convinced that they both must work to earn enough money to fund the family. Certainly, there are those occasions where a mother must work just to make ends meet. But here’s where the rub comes. We are saturated in a culture that confuses legitimate needs with wants and whims. One of the downsides of prosperity is that it causes a societal-wide lust for the “good life”.

Television, advertising, and even our friends, convince us that we need far more than we actually do. So, persuaded that we have to keep up with the Joneses—it’s off to the “Second Income Races”. And left behind, holding the bag—are the kids.

Personally, I question whether a greater good is accomplished when Mom is separated from her children in order to earn more money for “needs” like cable television, an extra car, piano lessons, elite private schools, designer cloths, and vacations.

4) Lazy Husbands. In recent years, I have noticed a disturbing trend: Men, who themselves were raised by absentee moms, are pressuring their wives to “bring home the bacon.” It hurts me to even have to acknowledge the fact that there are Christian men who insist that their wives to go to work outside the home. As the head of the household, it is primarily the man’s responsibility to provide for his family. To bottom-line it, Dad is responsible for going out, killing something, and dragging it home! I would encourage Christian men to help their wives stay at home. Work extra hours, take a second job, skip the golf games, cut back on your lifestyle—but try to help Mom be with the kids.

5) Legitimate Need. So that I don’t broad-brush this issue unfairly, let me clarify my point. I’m not suggesting that it’s always wrong for Mom to go to work. But I do think it should be a last alternative after every other option has been explored. There are dire situations where Mom has to go out of the home. Husbands die, some become disabled, and sometimes they run off. I recently heard the heartbreaking story of a family who had gotten into such horrible financial distress that the only way to avoid bankruptcy was for the mother to get a short-term job. There are legitimate reasons for Mother to leave home for a job.

As a Christian couple, yours is a difficult task: You must honestly appraise your motives. Why is Mom taking a job that will remove her from the kids? Is it out of real need—or, are there other objectives? Bring the question before God. Ask Him for counsel and direction. Ask Him to help you see it from His eyes, instead of the world’s eyes. Seek His face. Commit your ways to Him, and accept His direction.

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