Whether they are in the workforce or stay home many feel guilty. Why?
It is probably a really dumb idea for a guy to try and tackle such an important subject for women. The only reason I bring it up is that it seems like such a “walking on eggshells” topic. People typically have very definite opinions and sometimes offer harsh judgements towards one choice or the other. I recently conducted a very unscientific facebook query mostly to determine the level of emotion associated with the topic. Of course facebook does not provide unbiased results. Most of our friends on facebook probably share similar viewpoints to our own. That’s why they are our “friends.” However, even among ‘friends” this topic provides what I consider a volatile diversity of opinion.
One interesting trend I have noted as a pastor, counselor, husband, and friend is that in general, whether mothers choose to work or stay home, they feel a level of guilt associated with the decision. Again, I am generalizing here. Some work and feel no guilt. Some stay at home and feel no guilt. Generally however, moms that work feel guilty about not spending enough time with their children and mom’s that stay home feel guilty about not using their college degree or their professional skills to contribute to the family finances.
The choice in and of itself is not so cut and dry. Some mom’s have to work just to make ends meet. Some mothers work because a man put them in a bad situation. Some mom’s choose to work for a variety of other reasons and some choose to stay home with differing degrees of financial sacrifice. In any case, the guilt is still generally apparent. My question is why?
Why Christian Mothers Feel Guilty?
I run the risk of oversimplifying a complicated issue but allow me to make some observations.
Some Working Christian moms feel guilty for several reasons:
• Some “stay at home proponents” in the church pass judgements heaping guilt on their heads.
• They love their children and want to stay home with them but they can’t.
• They love their professional life more than they love their home life and they feel they shouldn’t.
• They are experiencing real conviction because their choices are motivated by sin.
Some Stay at home Christian moms feel guilty for several reasons:
• They are sometimes jokingly labeled as stupid and unproductive.
• They earned a degree and feel like they wasted a lot of energy if they were “just” going to stay home.
• Feminism, which dominates media and education, creates a cultural bias against stay at home moms.
• They could feel genuine conviction for being lazy or because they make the family an idol.
How Can You Overcome Guilt?
One word. Abide. No matter the issue, guilt stems from a disconnection from Christ that effects our will and emotions. Take time now and read John 15. The chapter details the benefits of abiding with Christ. Here is my favorite part.
“As the Father has loved me so I love you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” -John 15:9-11
When we abide in Christ we are choosing to do life His way. When we do life his way, guilt goes away and instead we have joy. The big question is what commandments must I keep? Jesus answers the question.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” -John 15:12
Therefore love trumps all. When we abide we receive love from the Father and freely love others in a sacrificial way. This is the pattern of a guilt free life. How does that apply to our original question… To work or not to work? The question can only be answered by asking this. “In what way can I best love the others in my life as I abide in Christ? By working outside the home or by staying home? Depending on situations and circumstances this answer could be different for different people and different families in differing seasons of life. By the way, the greatest examples of sacrificial love are often seen in motherhood. No question in our family sacrificial love oozes from mom. Be encouraged and abide in Christ. Throw off guilt but embrace conviction. Conviction is His way of telling you its time to reconnect. It’s a good thing. Jesus is your source whether you stay at home or drive to work each day.
My thoughts as a Husband and father of three (count em’ 3) daughters.
Why am I so interested in this subject? My wife and I are raising three daughters that will one day be women, possibly married, possibly with children. How do we lead them?
When our first daughter was born, we decided together that Angie would stay home. We have never had any tension over that because she felt called and excited to be a stay at home mom. Her work at home provides huge benefits for our daughters. I thought we were going to die at first financially because she was the major bread winner as a super smart accountant. We survived and in fact thrived, and for that provision, I am grateful. Angela experiences good days and bad days as a mom just like everyone else. What we have found is that the balance and peace Angela brings to our family outweighs any amount of financial compensation or professional kudos she would get if she were still working for a huge accounting firm. Does that mean she will never work again? Who knows? We just know for now she is called to be home. This is the model that our daughters see demonstrated every day. Likely this family of origin experience will dramatically effect their beliefs about what they should do as a mother.
We came to this decision as we thought about the spiritual formation of our children. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 compels us as parents to teach the commands of God to our children as we walk along the road. Our decision for Angela to stay home largely stems from a deep desire to be around in order to influence our children in the mundane, every day of life… as they walk along the road.
So what will we say to our girls? We will say, “Get as much education as you possibly can get. Learn a trade, a profession, a skill. Understand that you and Christ are enough. If Jesus leads you to marry and have children then understand that being a wife and a mother is a high calling. Take into account the Scripture, your relationship with Christ and ask yourself how you can love others best as you abide.”
Ok… let the comments begin. I am braced and ready. Everything above is in love and from a heart that wants moms to experience joy that comes from abiding in Christ and making decisions that are a reflection of that relationship.