When I got the positive pregnancy test, I just assumed that nine months later, I would be living the stay at home mom life. That was what I knew. I couldn’t even fathom the alternative.
But as doors continually slammed shut to make that happen, I was faced with the question all working moms face at some point: How can I be a good mother if I work?
I truly believed for nine months that God’s will for me was to be a stay at home mom in the season of new motherhood but I ignored the call he had for me. The call for me that was so much harder for me.
He was calling me to something higher than the ideas I had for myself and our family.
““For my thoughts are not your thoughts neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Is 55:8-9 NIV).”
Now, being a working mom or being a stay at home mom isn’t inherently better or harder than the other across the board. But one was clearly better for our family in my mind: staying at home. But even more so, God knew it was better for me to work. And I fought it HARD. I was crushed each time an opportunity came up and was quickly squashed. One of those came when I was in the final days of my maternity leave. I held onto the hope of being a stay at home mom instead of hope in Christ.
I couldn’t understand. How could it be God’s will to pull me away from the helpless newborn I pushed out of my body seven weeks earlier? How could it be God’s will to make it so the showerless, messy house struggles of new parenthood would be compounded by going back to work?
I hear many people talk about how difficult it is to discern the voice of God. We pray for God to make himself clear to us. Yet, when he was clear to me, I fought him.
I had to realize very early into motherhood that although I love my son fiercely, God’s love for him is even more intense. My son was formed in my womb but God knew my son’s name as he created the universe. I can trust a God like that to know what’s best for my son. God doesn’t ask us to agree with him. He asks us to trust him.
If you look in scripture for God to weigh in on the working vs. stay at home mom debate, you won’t find it. But what we will find, of course, is our friend the Proverbs 31 woman. It’s generally agreed upon that the woman described in Proverbs was not a real woman, but is a description of an ideal. She is called a “wife of noble character.” The book of Proverbs speaks at length about Wisdom, which is personified as a woman. It seems this wife of noble character has many of the qualities of wisdom.
Proverbs 31 spends more than 10 verses in a litany of all the tasks this busy woman does: she serves the needy, she buys land, she clothes her household, she brings food from afar, she plants a vineyard….and the list goes on and on. This isn’t just another task list for busy women to fulfill! Jesus gave us the Lord’s Prayer as a framework of how to pray. We have the framework of the Proverbs 31 woman as an example.
After this list, it says, “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all (Proverbs 31:28-29 NIV).”
Many moms are worried that their children or husbands will one day resent them for their work taking them out of the home. But look! The Proverbs 31 woman is out buying land and planting vineyards but her children call her blessed and her husband praises her.
But it’s not the tasks that make her blessed. It’s not her looks or her incredible ability to manage her time, assets and household. It’s her fear of the Lord.
It continues right after the above passage, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. (Proverbs 31:30 NIV)”
While I was in a vulnerable postpartum state dreading my return to work, I came across an ill-informed Christian blog post that said something along the lines of “If you are a working mom, either God is wrong or you’re living outside of your means.”
No! If you’re a working mom, and that’s where God has called you to be for this season in your life, then thank you for being an example to your children and all of us in how to fear the Lord and by serving him and your family. Thank you for choosing to follow him even when it’s hard or doesn’t make sense. I pray you find joy and peace where God has you right now juggling dinner and client phone calls and the list of chores that never gets done.
If you’re a stay at home mom, and that’s where God has called you to be for this season in your life, then thank you for being an example to your children and all of us in how to fear the Lord and by serving him and your family. Thank you for choosing to follow him even when you may desire something else. I pray you find joy and peace in where God has you right now in the middle of dirty diapers, screaming toddlers and piles of toys and laundry all over.
If you’re called to be a working mom (or stay at home mom) and you know that’s the call God has on your life. Fear him in that decision. By fearing him, you are on the road to wisdom. (“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” Proverbs 9:10 NIV.)
Fearing him doesn’t mean the path will be easy, of course. But, his yoke is easy and his burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV)