Today's woman faces a myriad of opportunities. Will she climb the "career ladder" and reach for the same goals that were reserved only for men just a decade ago? Will she choose to stay home, raise her children, and care entirely for the needs of her husband and family? Or will she try to do both? For some women, the decision is simple. They feel that the woman's place is in the home, and would never even consider having a job away from the family. For others, the decision is complicated and they may have no choice but to work. This may be due to being a single mom or having a disabled husband. In order for the decision, "to work or not to work," to be a truly successful decision --one that will be good for the marriage, the family, and the mother-- it must be done according to God's principles, because using biblical ideals provides guidance in successful decisions.
Women in today's world have an infinite number of options when it comes to career choices. They can choose to work outside the home and perform the same jobs that were generally held by men only ten years ago. It is now much more common for women to work in the business world alongside men (Berg 17). They can also make the choice to work at home. Some women may choose to have a typing service or to do accounting out of their homes. Other women choose to make crafts and handmade items or to baby-sit for other mothers to make extra money. A woman can also choose not to work inside or outside the home for extra money, but only to take care of her family and do housework. It may depend on the energy and determination that a woman has as to whether she will be able to combine a career with a family. Whichever choice the husband and wife decide on, it should be based on biblical principles (Tchividjian 73).
What most people refer to as "work" usually means employment outside of the home (Tchividjian 73). Today it is quite normal for both the husband and the wife to work. But, some say that if they both work, there will be competition between the spouses. It may lead to judgments about which one is more successful (Vannoy and Philliber 388). "For millions of women, going to work is or soon may be an economic necessity. With inflation devouring the family's budget at a terrifying rate, husbands and wives across the country and in the all Western world are facing the harsh reality that one income is simply not enough" (Moster 21).
A working woman's ideas about being a stay-at-home mom will change dramatically after she quits her job. In the world of business, goals are easily measured and achieved. When a woman becomes a stay-at-home mom after being in the business world, she will find that her goals are not easily measured. Now, she must set long term goals, such as raising a child. She will have many expectations about her new job as a stay-at-home mom; and it will take a while for her to slow down the pace of her expectations without feeling like she is not accomplishing anything. She will also find that the "bliss" of motherhood that she was expecting is a lot more complicated and stressful than she imagined.
During the first few months, the mother will be teaching the baby that she loves him/her and that the baby can trust her to meet his/her needs for food, sleep, play, and affection. For a baby to learn these things, it takes a great deal of time, energy, and repetition (Kovatch 2). In repeating the acts to fulfill the baby's needs for sleep, food, play, and affection, the mother is working on her long-term goal of raising her child properly. Managing a household and raising children lacks routine. It is important for the mother to realize that the baby doesn't always need her to be doing something; he/she just needs her to be there.
A survey group was asked about what caused the most concern or fear about quitting their job and returning home. The two major concerns were loss of health care benefits and unforeseen financial disasters. Some women had jobs that provided the primary health care benefits for their families. For the women that were surveyed, it was a significant matter when making a decision about continuing to work. Even when things are going well and a family is in the best of circumstances, there can still be unforeseen financial disasters. These disasters can be something as simple as a car breaking down, or as complicated as the loss of a job. Even under normal circumstances, financial worries can cause anxiety, fears, and even fights among spouses. In fact, one of the main causes for divorce is financial problems. For the family that has made the decision to live on one income, the potential crisis looks impossible.
For some women, the decision to stay home is quite simple. The woman whose mother did not work outside the home may not see a dilemma at all. She will usually just follow her mother's example. If a husband was raised in a home where his mother worked and his father and the children participated in caring for the house, he will probably feel rather comfortable sharing the household chores. If he never saw his father do anything around the house and never even held a broom or dustcloth, he will need to adjust. But he certainly can do the work and most of the time he will if he understands the need (Moster 109). Some women who are perfectionists soon find that the old standard of flawlessness cannot be maintained, and that is quite upsetting to them. They feel guilty that they cannot do everything their mothers once did. Other women could not care less about how the house looks and will continue to live in disorder and chaos. Somehow, a balance needs to be reached. Striving for perfection will make the woman nervous and irritable. She will probably not accept help from her husband and children because they will not do the job as excellently as she would; and her irritability would make everyone around her miserable (Moster 62). A balance can be reached by teaching the children to pick up after themselves and help the mother in any way that they can. As the children get older they should learn to do chores around the house such as cleaning bathrooms and dusting furniture. A parent's job is to teach the child to be independent (Moster 108).
Although God does not teach that a woman may not work outside the home, He does make it very clear that family should come first. Titus 2:5 states, "to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands." Women are not to be sitting at home watching television or catching up on the latest gossip with a friend. They will not accomplish anything this way. They are to be staying busy by doing housework, child-care, and maintaining the home. I Timothy 5:8 says, "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his/her immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." God wants both men and women to drop everything and care for the needs of their families. Proverbs 31 talks about a wife and mother of noble character and the numerous things that she does so well. Verses 10 and 15 say that she is worth far more than rubies and that she gets up early in the morning while it is still dark and makes food for her family. She sacrifices her own needs to provide for the needs of her family. Proverbs 31:37b states, "She doesn't sit idle and let the day pass away." She is always busy doing things for her family and making sure that their needs are met. Seeking biblical principles of this issue is extremely important. It will take time, thought, and a lot of prayer to make this decision a successful one. Janet Harrison Carver, mother of three comments, "Who is more important than the new budding little generation? And who can teach, encourage, help, and love them better than their own mothers?" (Burton, Ditmer, and Loveless).
The conclusion that the husband and wife come to can be truly successful if it the decision is given a lot of thought and prayer and is done according to what Jesus would do. The decision to work or not to work must be considered carefully by both the husband and the wife. In order for a family to successfully make the transition to caring for children at home and living on less income, both spouses must share a commitment to the lifestyle (Kovatch 2). If the spouses differ in their expectations of what it means to be a stay-at-home parent, it will surely cause a great deal of conflict. The patterns for work and leisure time that have been established by a couple without children will not likely work after a baby is born. It is very crucial that couples discuss their expectations for how much child-care, housework will be done, and who will do it (Kovatch 1). When couples decide that the mother should stay home with the children while they are young, it is natural for her to do most of the housework, because she is home all day anyway. The husband may help with some of the work, but the wife will probably take care of most of it. Then when she does go to work, he might resist having to start doing things he has never done before. He might feel that she is gaining an exciting new job and he is losing his leisurely evenings (Davidson 97). It is necessary that couples maintain an open dialogue about issues of caring for the children and the home. Marriage partners bring separate agendas and backgrounds into the marriage. Therefore, many sources of the dispute can be present when life decisions are being made.
When the decision is made for the mother to stay at home with her children, it is important to realize that the stay-at-home parent and the employed parent will be living different lives with different advantages and disadvantages. This may lead to resentment and jealousy of the rewards of the other's lifestyle. The key to reducing conflict is to recognize that each role has differing costs and rewards (Kovatch 3). It is also important for the husband and wife to empathize with each other. They need to see that each of them are making sacrifices and that neither job is all fun and exciting all of the time. Most importantly, the couple needs to reaffirm regularly that they both believe that the lifestyle that they have chosen is the best thing for their family (Berg 52). More than ever before, with the pressures of both partners' working added to the normal stresses of a marriage relationship, couples need help. Marriage has never been easy, but when a mother goes to work, even the best marriage can fail miserably. To maintain a successful marriage it is essential that God's principles guide the relationship. (Moster 89)
Being a stay-at-home mom is one of the most contestable occupations that a woman can choose today (Burton, Ditmer, and Loveless 25). Women are divided on this issue. Some say that stay-at-home moms "have set the women's movement back." There are some that say stay-at-home moms are lazy and do not accomplish anything while staying at home. Some families are even jealous because they see another family with a stay-at-home mom and wish that they could make that work for themselves (Burton, Ditmer, and Loveless 2). Today, Americans have different expectations for women. They expect women to be "super-moms" and balance a career and a family. Society makes women feel inadequate if they are only a homemaker. But, women have different expectations for themselves than different generations (Kovatch 1).
"Knowing that they could be successful almost anywhere, [women] are choosing success at home. (Burton, Ditmer, and Loveless 20). Women are staying at home because they want to stay home. Most women who stay home are not miserably "stuck" there. The reason that mothers are choosing to stay home is because they believe strongly that what they are doing is extremely important. Linda Burton, Janet Ditmer, and Janet Loveless so excellently describe, a mother's decision to stay at home and raise a family.
Although the decision is an intensely personal one, the fact that it is being made by so many women independently clearly suggests a trend: we are seeing the emergence of a brand new kind of mother- a mother with the confidence and emancipation of the seventies who also wants to give her children the kind of time and devotion associated with the fifties; a mother who is intent upon putting her family first without putting herself last (21) .
All throughout life, people have to make choices. Some of the decisions are small and unimportant while others require a lot more time and thought. Sometimes the choices that are made make a drastic change in the direction that one is going in life. Prayerful consideration must be given to each decision that needs to be made. Choices that are made are determined by one's values. A person's values show what they really care about, not just what they say they believe (Moster 145). Their choices, decisions, and especially their actions reveal each person's values. Their biggest responsibility however is to be in the very center of God's will for their lives. There are countless choices and opportunities for women today, which it makes it very difficult to decide what to pursue. In any situation a woman must make sure that any job she is going to pursue will be worthwhile economically. She must consider the income in relation to the expenses. A woman must also make sure that she has enough self-discipline to stick with the job that she ends up choosing, whether it is inside the home or outside the home.
Women today have so many opportunities from which to choose. They could choose to journey into the business world or to be a homemaker. Some women may even may challenge themselves and take on both a career and the many duties of a wife and mother. Some women make this decision easily and for others, it takes much thought and consideration. Whether the mother decides to stay home with her children and cater to the needs of her family, or if she decides to embark into the world of careers, she and her husband must prayerfully consider both options. Using God's principles is the only way to make truly successful decisions.
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Vannoy, Dana, and William W. Philliber. "Wife's Employment and Quality of Marriage."
Journal of Marriage and the Family May 1992: 387-398.
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