In this post I discuss some primary issues I ponder and pray through when considering my part-time work alongside mothering my preschoolers.
–Money. Many women who work for compensation do so because their family finances require it (I am one). If God calls me to lay down my consulting work to focus exclusively on mothering, I’ll do so knowing He’ll provide an alternate way to meet our financial needs… a different source of income, downsizing in housing, life simplification, something. I’d want to avoid continuing to work while knowing it was the wrong decision for the overall health of our household – for my capacity to mother our kids the way I felt God desired, our family life, my marriage, my soul. I’d hate doing it in a faithless way, knowing it wasn’t God’s plan for our family but feeling trapped. For some, the money can actually distract from the core issues. Several mom friends of mine earn an income sizable enough in their part-time work that it seems ludicrous to give it up (even if they can afford to do so). Commenters call them crazy for even considering it – “the money’s so good and the schedule’s not too bad; surely it’s smartest to stay with it and make it work.” Trouble is – what if the marriage, the children’s well-being, the mom’s soul are suffering? What if God isn’t in it, despite the money?
–Priorities. One struggle with being a part-time working mom is maintaining God’s priorities: God first, marriage second, kids third, everything else after that. When life gets intense due to work demands, all that goes out the window. My quiet time is the first thing to go, the day becomes centered around when I’ll accomplish the work that calls, and kids accommodate to that schedule. Often I’ll work in the evening during the time I’d normally spend with my husband… or else be so maxxed out by evening that I turn in early. Too much work-juggling and suddenly it easily becomes work first, kids/household second, marriage and God tied for third (or lower). My priority list becomes theoretical only.
Consistency in childrearing. When I had only one young child (0 – 2 years), finding alternate care for him when I worked was simple and doable. When we had another child and our eldest grew, the situation changed. It became more logisitically complicated to accomodate babysitting (e.g., my mom could watch one baby if I had an overnight consulting trip, but not two.) And it began mattering more that consistent, intentional training occur once our kids passed the infant/baby stage. I’m not against babysitters and use them fairly regularly (3 – 5 times/month); I’m not a hovering mom. But I do care enormously about the character development of our kids, and I want to be present and attentive to oversee their training in righteousness. When a mom works 15, 20, 25 hours per week, her children are normally in other people’s care for a decent percentage of their waking hours. Are they whining or disobeying? Taunting their sister or peers? Mouthing off? She isn’t present to address these issues herself. In some cases the alternate-care situation is perfectly suited to her situation – let’s say her babysitter is her wise and godly mother-in-law whom she trusts implicitly. In other cases (as my case would be if I worked this much), such an ideal option isn’t available… And this is where the prayer and consideration come.
–“Building my house.” I’m a mediocre housekeeper, and creating an inviting home isn’t among my natural gifts. But Prov 14:1 resonates with me anyway: “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” I know that, in the season of childbearing and childrearing, the task of building my house is the central call on my life and time. What exactly that looks like is for God to dictate and direct – but whatever it looks like, it’s paramount. “I have never met a mother who told me she willingly set out to tear down her house or her heritage with her own hands, yet many a mother has shared with me her regrets that she unwittingly did just that – because her misplaced priorities or divided heart kept her from doing what she needed to do for the sake of her children.” (Sally Clarkson) God forbid that I should allow, by neglect or by self-focus, this to happen to me or my household.
–Passion. I’m not passionate about the content of my work, so it feels increasingly like a mental drain. I have to make myself do it and utilize energy that I’d otherwise be spending elsewhere. If I were passionate about it – say, if my compensated work were reading books and writing, activities that energize me – it would feel different. The time I spent working would liven my spirit and energize me in a way that would – or more easily could – enlarge my soul and through this, bless my household.
Every mom is different. Every situation is different. Each of us Christ-following moms is responsible to God for working through the dynamics of our own scenarios. I have enormous respect for my mother-of-preschooler friends who also work and do not in any way judge them. My purpose here is to lay out some of my own reflections in case they may be valuable to others as part of a larger dialogue on this topic.
A few articles touching on this topic I found ponder-worthy:
- Study to Show Yourself a SAHM
- Kids Don’t Retrofit
- Why I’m At Home
- Combatting the “You Should Get Out of the House More” Mentality