I've been in a relationship with my boyfriend for just over two years now. We've had our ups and downs but generally everything is going pretty well. We're hoping, God willing, to get married when I graduate from university (which will be in two years time).
We recently had a discussion about our view on my becoming a stay-at-home mom when we have kids, and we seem to be thinking along different lines in this matter. I really feel a strong desire to want to stay at home and raise our children when the time comes for us to have them, but my boyfriend seems to have misgivings about it. He respects that it's something I want to do, but he is concerned that financially it won't be viable. He is concerned that I am wasting time going to university to get a good degree leading to a good job if all I want to do is stay at home with our kids.
He's also concerned that my desire to stay at home and raise our children will force him to work more hours to be able to finance this ideal and therefore exclude him from spending quality time with our children.
I am hurt that he feels this way as I want more than anything else for my husband to have a huge role in my children's lives. I'm also aware that if I were to give up work, we could potentially struggle to pay our way and am therefore prepared to do all I can to avoid this situation.
Sometimes when we discuss it, I feel as if he's against my staying at home with our children, even though he says he isn't. It feels as if there is a small barrier between us on this issue, and I would like some advice as to whether this is an issue big enough for me to doubt whether he is the right man to be my husband. Or is it one of those secondary issues that we can work with and shouldn't be a big deal for us? Should I be willing to submit to his authority on this matter, or should I stand my ground? Or should I just wait and see what position we find ourselves in financially when we get there?
I am encouraged by your desire to one day take care of your own children. This is a noble goal. Children do best when they have the undivided attention and care of their parents. But in our day, that's not always well-known or believed. Countless parents — both moms and dads — have discovered, after baby's arrival, that they want to care for her or him themselves, only to be thwarted by all their financial decisions and spending habits up to that point.
Prior to marriage, many dating couples do put it in the "secondary issues" category, assuming they'll be able to figure it out later, when the babies start coming. The problem with that plan is inertia. A couple that starts out with two incomes tends to live fully on those incomes to the point that they become dependent on them. Then, when a baby arrives and the wife says, "I want to stay home with our little one," she's often disappointed to realize that the inertia of their lifestyle demands that she keep working. Whether it's a mortgage that was approved using both salaries, lingering school loan payments, or lifestyle-created credit card debt (or a combination of all three), new parents too often find the choices about mom working being made for them by the inertia of their pre-kid spending decisions.
It's not easy living on one salary. But it's not impossible, either. With a little foresight and planning, it is possible to live on one salary when you start your relationship with that goal in mind.
I also find it encouraging that your boyfriend is willing to talk this through, that he is at least open to the idea of you being home with the kids and that you still have some time before you marry to resolve this issue. It's not surprising that he feels the way he does, given the strong messages we hear about the necessity of two incomes as well as all the feminist insistence that women shouldn't trust a man — even a husband — enough to give up their identity, career and earning power. But I think the fact that you are willing to be so counter-cultural and actually trust him to do his part as provider, will empower him to step up to the challenge. But it's not just up to him. Even as you're trusting him, he must trust in God as your ultimate provider. He is the one who, in the midst of your faithfulness and your future husband's, will make up the difference.
You asked if you must submit to him now. That doesn't begin till after you're married. But it is precisely because you will be Scripturally bound to submit to your husband after you are married that you work through such complex issues before you say "I do." The deeper issue at stake in this conversation is his seeming reluctance to take on the biblical role of husband, which at its core, requires that he be provider and protector of his wife and children.
Scripture is clear that while wives have the potential and opportunity to contribute to the family budget (see Proverbs 31), they do not have an obligation to do so. The primary responsibility for providing a living for a family rests on the husband (1 Timothy 5:8).
It's nice that women now have avenues open to them for using their gifts and talents in the marketplace for profit. Such is the life many housewives in the '50s longed for. They wanted opportunities. Sadly, what was once an opportunity has for many millions of women turned into an expectation and obligation.
If you desire to be at home with your children, this should be a primary issue to discuss and settle before you get married. It would help a lot to meet with an older mature Christian couple who've made similar decisions and made living on one income, for a season, work. They may be able to answer your boyfriend's practical questions and address his fears.
About your getting a university degree, what could possibly be nobler than getting well trained to raise the next generation of leaders? This assumes, of course, that you're not piling up debt to get your degree. That would fall into that inertia category that limits your future choices. As long as you're paying as you go — whether by working, getting help from your parents, or being on scholarship — there's great honor in honing your mind and skills for a future life as a mother. (If it's just your school debt that will make it impossible for you to stay at home as a mom, why not put your degree on hold, get married now, and resume your studies later, after your kids are grown?)
I am hopeful that as you search the Scriptures together and seek wisdom about God's will, that He will not only show you what do to, but will deepen your relationship with Him and with each other.
To Him Be the Glory,
Copyright 2008 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.