Eight years ago, when my first child was born, I was astonished by the strength of my maternal instinct. I vividly remember the first parting from him. The sick feeling in my stomach. The worry. The inability to fully engage in what I was doing. Babysitters sounded great in theory, but when it was my child, leaving him became extremely difficult.
Many women are blindsided by the fact that they don’t want to return to work after becoming a mother. In fact, a recent survey shows that the number of stay-at-home mothers (SAHMs) is increasing, not decreasing.
The truth is that couples who try to “have it all” — namely, two careers and a house full of children — find that something has to give.
Have you thought about marriage and children? Will Mom stay home with the kids, or will both parents work? Sometimes it happens sooner than you think, and these theoretical questions suddenly need answers. Are you and your boyfriend or girlfriend on the same page?
Whether you esteem or despise the idea of SAHMs, the happiness of your future marriage depends on your ability to debunk the myths. Here are seven myths that may be influencing your decision.
Myth #1: Homemaking is not relevant in our modern world.
You may question whether there is value in a mother being home-centered with her time and energy. “Women’s work” is a label that feels a little condescending. In today’s culture it implies something inferior to men’s work. Something mindless, menial and unremarkable. Unless you understand the value that God places on a woman’s work in the home, becoming a SAHM may seem like a demotion.
Back in Genesis, before marriage was tainted by sin, God created the first man and woman equal, yet distinct. Both Adam and Eve were made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). They were to “subdue” the earth and “have dominion over…every living thing” (Genesis 1:28), yet they would carry out this mandate in uniquely male and female ways.
God placed Adam in the garden to “work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15) and later cursed him in this same realm of work (3:17). By contrast, God perfectly equipped Eve to give and nurture life, a helper “fit” for her husband (Genesis 2:18). It is no surprise then that God cursed Eve in the realm of childbearing and marriage (Genesis 3:16).
A mother choosing to be home-centered with her time and energy is not merely a product of an outdated social construct. She is living her life in a way that fits very well with her created role as life-giving helper to her husband.
Myth #2: The Bible has nothing to say about women’s work.
I am very thankful for my female doctor and many other women that contribute to the workforce and enrich my life in varying ways. But men and women are not interchangeable, and during certain seasons of life, it is extremely difficult for a woman to have a career without neglecting her God-given responsibilities in the home.
Christians cannot overlook passages such as Titus 2:3-5 and 1 Timothy 5:14 that give married women a clear home-centered directive for their work. These verses give no prohibition for her to work outside the home, but rather point to the fact that the home is her primary realm of responsibility.
The way in which a mother is home-centered with her time and priorities will look different depending on her family’s circumstances and the age of her children. However, she needs to be aware that her home is her priority.
Myth #3: Stay-at-home moms are a drain on the family economy.
Some mothers desire to contribute financially to the family, and with their husband’s support, they find ways to work and still manage their home beautifully. A flexible part-time job is a good option. Like the Proverbs 31 woman, she “considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.” Her priority is her home, yet she also finds time to engage in other work.
However, men and women need to consider the cost of Mom working. When you have young children, a second job does not bring in as much financial gain as you may think. Quality child care and transportation can be expensive, so for many couples, the stress of juggling everyone’s schedule is not worth adding the smaller second income.
Another angle to consider is the cost to the family’s well-being when both parents work. Many families do not thrive when Mom pursues outside work. Personal stress, time lost with children, and an inability to manage both home and work at a satisfactory level — all these things take their toll. The competing demands of home and work may be felt most poignantly by Mom because of her God-given responsibility to “manage her household” (1 Timothy 5:14).
A wise woman knows her limits and is not afraid to quit her job. And a wise husband is not afraid to let her do it.
So, yes, there are financial costs when Mom stays home, but you may be surprised to find benefits that can’t be quantified by money.
Myth #4: Wives and husbands share equal responsibility to earn income.
With all the voices and opinions out there, you may find it hard to know who is responsible to put food on the table. However, God does not place this responsibility on the mother. First Timothy 5:8 speaks of a man’s responsibility to provide for his family:
But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
Ephesians 5:29 also speaks of a husband’s responsibility to nourish and cherish his wife. The “nourishing” here is more than physical, but it is not less. Providing financially for your family is hard work. But if you are a man, it is one of the ways God has called you to care for your future family.
Myth #6: Stay-at-home moms are wasting their talents and education.
We cannot judge whether a mother makes good use of her education merely on the basis of money. Yes, she could earn money with the knowledge she has gained, but there are a million other ways she can apply it.
A SAHM trains up her children, manages her household, and is likely serving her church and community in a myriad of ways. Whether she is a trained teacher, nurse or manager, she can bless the people in her life. Moms don’t need to be in a paid position to use their talents. God gives them opportunities — right where they are — to use their gifts and abilities.
Myth #7: Stay-at-home moms are missing out.
Our generation is terrified that if they don’t make the perfect choice, they will miss out on something better. Movies and novels portray stay-at-home moms as the most repressed of all. They are unhappy, bored and bound by family obligations.
However, the idea that SAHMs are missing out is misleading. Of course, we are missing out on something — everyone is missing out on something — because we are human and limited. But a woman who prioritizes her family over work chooses a good option.
Homemaking was never meant to define us or completely fulfill us. God is the only one who can fill that role. But children are a gift from the Lord (Psalm 127:3), and spending time with them is a privilege.
Maybe you are the woman who longs to be a SAHM or maybe you are the man whose girlfriend wants to be. Don’t be afraid of the myths. No matter what our culture tells us about womanhood or family life, we know that God’s design is good. When a husband supports his wife’s desire to stay home with her children, he supports her God-given desire to nurture, help and give life.
No Christian will find true fulfillment in wealth, power or career advancement. Whether a SAHM or CEO, those of us who are saved by grace find satisfaction when our lives are a “living sacrifice” to God (Romans 12:1). And that doesn’t come with a pay grade.
Copyright 2015 Christel Humfrey. All rights reserved.