The decision to work outside the home or to stay at home as a wife and mother is an intensely personal one. We live in an age when women have unlimited opportunities for a career choice, and are no longer bound to the home in high heels and pearls as in the 1950’s. This has been a tremendous blessing for some women, and not so much for others.
Like many of you I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, the time in American history when women believed they were being liberated from the “shackles” of role models like June Cleaver. Gloria Steinem and Betty Freidan were feminist heroes, and women were fighting for equality in every aspect of life. One of my sisters was an active part of the feminist movement. Being 9 years older than I, she hoped that I would follow in her footsteps and embrace her liberated and liberal way of thinking.
I did not.
While I had the opportunity for college after high school, I didn’t take it. I married and worked full-time in a medical field with an all-woman staff who were building careers while raising a family. They were wives and mothers who “had it all.” Several of them talked about how exhausted they were from living dual lives of professional by day and wife/parent by night and on the weekends. They complained about the stress of wearing both hats and seemed to be angry and even bitter about the path they had chosen. Other women in the office talked about the guilt they felt as they dropped their children off at daycare each day, and sorrow at missing important milestones in their children’s lives. There were of course, women who were very happy with their decision to have both family and career. They had little apparent difficulty managing the transitions.
While there have been times over my marriage and parenting years that I had to work outside the home, I did not like it. I worked in a challenging medical specialty that I enjoyed while I was there, but I hated to leave the house to go to work. I left home every day carrying a sense of guilt for a number of reasons. I missed being home and available for my kids during the day. I also found being a decent wife and mother in the evening after the stress of working all day to be very difficult. I was short tempered (something I struggled with anyway) and I was very divided inside. If one of the kids got sick, I had guilt on both ends! Calling in sick to work meant my work team would suffer, and my sick child really wanted his mommy, not his grandma or a babysitter. I was bearing guilt either way. My weekends were crammed with all the things I could’t get done during the week while trying to make up for not being with the kids while I was at work.
Most importantly, early on in my Christian life I was deeply convicted by both Titus 2 and Proverbs 31 about the importance of being a keeper at home during those important formative years of my children’s lives. I truly believed that was where I “belonged.” I am very much a home-body, and I wanted to be like my mom who was a wife and homemaker. When I was a small child she worked in the evening as a grocery store checker, but for the majority of her life she was a stay-at-home wife and mom. My mom loved being home. She made meals from scratch every day, clipped coupons to save money, and sincerely reveled in her role. I realized I was more of a part-time wife and mom, and that seemed wrong to me.
Larry and I made the decision that I would return home full-time as soon as our financial situation allowed and we worked hard to make it happen. That fall, I also began home schooling our 3 kids. While this had its challenges, I loved being home with my family. I loved impacting my children’s lives and having the opportunity to pour myself into the role I believe God created me for.
One income living demanded sacrifices. It meant we shopped at second hand stores, and didn’t have the latest or greatest of anything. We didn’t take vacations, go out to dinner, or buy new cars. I didn’t own a designer handbag or have pedicures. I made our meals from scratch and shopped at 3-4 different stores to get the best deals. Yes, it was challenging to make ends meet and there were definitely times we struggled. Looking back, I don’t regret the sacrifice and I wouldn’t have changed a thing. God was faithful and always provided for our needs.
My kids are all grown and married now, and I am finally in college. I’m completing my Master’s degree and will pursue a Ph.D. after that. I have the counseling ministry and I love what I do, but it is not who I am. I am still first a wife and a keeper of my home. My primary responsibility is to my wonderful husband and I make sure that as much as possible, my outside work doesn’t begin until I get him out the door in the morning. I still cook from scratch and make his lunch every day. I love being a wife, a mom to our 3 married sons, and I am absolutely nuts about being grandma to our toddling granddaughter. I understand that this path is not for everyone, but it is what is right for me. I don’t regret leaving the workplace in favor of being a keeper of my home. I believe I have made a wise investment in my family and that they benefited from the life we’ve given them.
If you are a woman who desires to come home from the working world, begin to pray about this decision today. Be sure your husband is on board with your desire and is willing to explore the possibility of you staying home. Figure out your finances to determine if it is even possible. Eliminate all the debt you can and don’t create more! Learn to live on less and sacrifice more.
I pray the Lord will bless us all: Every woman who desires to glorify God by how she lives her life, whether at home or in the workplace.