The Honor of Working at Home- Part 1

I've been meaning to get this posted, but it's not an easy topic nor one that I feel overly qualified to speak on.  I'm attempting to open a big can of worms today and I'm not totally sure if that's a good idea or not, but I'm proceeding with caution anyway :) One of my newest blog friends asked me in my Q&A post if I had any tips for being a stay at home Mom, specifically about being a one income family.  I'm glad she asked me that question, because as it turns out, I do!  I've learned a lot after these last 3 years at home, other Moms have poured into me with insight and advice that I'd love to pass along to you.  However, the more I read the Word and strive to be obedient to it, I've realized that I do have a strong passion for seeing young Moms fulfill the call God has placed on us to be at home with our families.  It breaks my heart to hear the statistics about how many kids are being raised in daycares or by caregivers who are not their parents.  But, because I know your blood pressure may already be rising at the mere mention of this topic, I feel like I need to qualify what I'm about to say with a few parameters. 

-First, I realize that you cannot paint every situation with a broad stroke.  I can only speak out of my own experience and I do not want to offend or imply in any way that I am the standard or that I am making all the right choices, all the time.  Please be sure to hear this in the vein of a fellow struggler, seeking what the Lord would have ME do for MY family.  It would wrong from me to push my convictions on you, but since this is my blog, I am happy to share them knowing that the Lord will make His convictions known to YOU, for YOU, when YOU seek HIM.
-Secondly, although my intent is not to offend, I am drawing as much of my opinion as possible from the Bible and that is the platform on which I stand.  It's no secret here that I love the Lord and I do my best to treat His Word with the highest reverence and respect.  He is God and I am not and therefore, He knows what is best for me (us) and what He has said about womanhood and motherhood, I am inclined to believe and pursue. I totally respect if that is not your conviction, but this is my blog and it's where I come from. I will happily include the Biblical texts from which I am drawing upon.
-Thirdly, we live in a broken world and some of my dearest friends are walking in shoes they never asked to be in.  We simply do not know what is around the corner and sometimes we have to make very hard choices in very dark times.  I realize that shooting for the "ideal scenario" is not always practical or helpful, so if you find yourself in a very hard place carrying the burden of two parents alone, please know that my heart breaks for you.  I believe strongly that even in our hardest struggles, God goes there with us and is intimately involved in the details of our lives, no matter how messy or sin-sick they are IF we are willing to let Him in.  He will provide for us ALWAYS, He will direct our steps in the way He wants us to go and He will gladly shoulder our burdens while walking with us.  Don't let this become a measuring stick of what you SHOULD be doing or what you are NOT doing.  He knows what you need, I don't.  Seek His opinion a thousand times before mine :)

-Lastly, this is definitely a decision that needs to be made in agreement with your spouse.  I know that many women feel the same way I do, but their husbands are not in agreement.  If we are married, our first command is to obey the Lord and then to respect and submit to the man we have married, whether he's always right or not.  I sympathize with you and at different times, Travis and I have wrestled our way through this issue too.  So please don't use my thoughts to feel more guilty or to get in a fight with your spouse.  God is the only one who moves hearts, so if you're married to a heart that needs to be softened or if yours needs softening, take it to the only one who can do anything about that.  Pray, pray and pray some more.  He is faithful and He can handle all of your fears, questions, struggles, etc.  I know this is a hard topic and I'm approaching it with my own fear and trepidation as I offer up my thoughts and hit publish! I will also say that I am doing this post in two parts because I can do nothing concisely and I've realized it's got so many layers, it warrants that.
Ok, all that to say that I don't know your story but here's mine... 
Do I think we made the right decision in our family for me to stay at home?  YES!!! We took the leap of faith when Ava was born almost 3 years ago.  What I wish we would have been more disciplined to do, was to live ONLY on Travis' income for years before she was born.  It would have made the transition from two incomes to one easier financially, but we didn't do that :)  Before she was born, we did know that we could live on Trav's income, even though it would be very tight, but we both believed that the benefits of me being with Ava would outweigh the cost of a leaner bank account.  That's what we thought BEFORE she was born.
Then I gave brith to her.
And after I held her tiny, little, precious self in my arms and I stared at those big eyes, looking up at me...I realized I couldn't IMAGINE giving her to anyone else to spend her days with, than me.  I was her Mom and she was my daughter.  For all the money in the world, I wouldn't trade these critical years with her.  We had some fears about how we would be able to afford everything we *wanted* for her and for us, but the Lord faithfully reminded me over and over that He gave her to us (Psalm 127:3-5) and that He was trust worthy with our future (Psalm 128:4, Psalm 13:5-6).  I had to reconcile my CHOICE to BELIEVE Him and who He says He is, before I could always see what He was doing.  He graciously brought a raise right when we needed it and He generously surprised us with provision from areas we never expected.  Before I knew it, 1 month turned to 3, then 6, then almost a year and we were making it!  We didn't fall behind on bills or struggle to put food on our table.  He provided. 
And then we got a big surprise...
The first news of THIS little guy rocked our world and gave us both pause for reflection again.  Could we afford two littles in diapers, two extra mouths to feed, two wardrobes, two college educations, etc, etc, ??  I will admit, I panicked more than once.  I lost sleep thinking about it.  It wasn't in our plan to have another one so soon, and I doubted God's plan for two kids under two.  But then, I made a choice to quiet the noise of all my anxieties and operate in truth.  What did God say in His Word? 

-"I lift up my eyes to the hills-where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth."  Psalm 121:1-2

-"For I am the Lord, you God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you." Isaiah 41:13

" not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable that they?" Matthew 6:25-26

Had He provided for us before?  YES! 
Had been faithful to us always?  YES!
Was He the author of life?  YES!!
Are children a gift from Him?  YES!!
Was He still God??  YES and AMEN!!!

I can't imagine our family without Ava AND Carter.  The Lord knew exactly what He was doing and He gave us two precious children in the perfect timing, HIS timing.
 My point is, before I give out tips or advice on this subject, the most important thing I had to reconcile in my mind and heart was my own belief about God.  I had to know that if I claimed to be a believer, that I actually believed Him.  I had to choose to put my hope in His Word alone and to do my best to trust Him.  There is no way to know what is in store for us or what He's got planned for our life.  But if I can trust the One who makes plans that are good for me (Jer. 29:11), then I don't need to know the details of the plan. Trusting the Grand Planner is enough!  Not always easy, but enough. 
 I also had to reconcile what He says is my role and responsibility is as a woman, a wife and a mom.  Thankfully, He has a lot to say about all of those things!  Proverbs 31 gives us a wonderful picture of what that woman might look like, but there are lots of other texts that tackle this as well.  In Titus 2, there are some commands given to older women who are responsible for teaching them to younger women.  This is what it says:
"Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God." Titus 2:4-5 
Similarly, 1 Timothy 5:14 tells us, "So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander."
Proverbs 31:10-31 gives us many ways a Godly woman operates, but none of them usurp her primary responsibilities to her husband and her children.  Verses 27-28 tell us,
"She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.  Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and her praises her: "Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all."
Whether we like it or not, or better yet, whether our culture agrees or not, it is clear in scripture that God calls women to run their homes, to manage their households and to make their husbands and children their first priority.  A greater priority to knowing and obeying the Lord is a given, but after that, if we are married our priorities are commanded to be directed to our husbands and our kids. I'm not sure why this is terribly misunderstood or flat out ignored by so many couples today, but sadly it is.  The Bible is clear and God has made His intentions for the family explicitly known, but we as women, have largely bought into the lie that feminisim has fed us.  And that is that we can do anything we want and have it all.  It's true that we can pursue whatever we want to, but it is a lie that we can have it all.  It is simply impossible to be a present, available spouse and parent while simultaneously being a successful, focused, career oriented woman.  I'm not judging one one over the other, I'm simply saying they both cannot exist without significant sacrifices required on both ends.  What is terribly sad and telling of our parents' generation and now ours, is that this culture prioritizes a career over motherhood.  Far too often women are asked to sacrifice their children, for the sake of their jobs. 
Obviously I'm not at all referring to single Moms or families who are experiencing a crisis that is forcing a Mom back in the work force.  I'm speaking directly about those of us who have entertained the idea of maintaining our careers, after we have kids, not because we HAVE to but because we want to.  Because we like the lifestyle we lead.  Because we don't want to miss out on a promotion or more money.  Because we like and need the affirmation a job affords us.  Because we don't want to be stuck at home with kids.  Because we want a big house, a new car, and money to shop with.  I totally get it.  I've had all of those thoughts and have wrestled at various points with each of them. 
 I'll let you in on the biggest shock of motherhood that I've experienced. This is not about adding a baby to your life or joining the ranks of women who have been there and done that.  Being a Mom is about laying down your life, your time, your needs, and your goals for another.  It's a call to a season of sacrifice like none other.  And while that can be a hard thing to swallow, it's truth and motherhood will be a smoother transition if you know that going into it.  Again, the voice of this culture tells us that we deserve to have all of our needs met or we deserve to go after our dreams and our kids shouldn't get in the way of that. 
 But that's not what God says.  He says that we are to love our children (Titus 2:3), to teach them (Proverbs 1:8), to train them in the way God made them (Proverbs 22:6), to discipline them (Proverbs 17:19), to impress Spiritual truths on them ( Deuteronomy 6:5-8), to help them remember what God has done (Deuteronomy 6:12, 20-21), to share the Gospel and the way of Salvation through Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 3:14-17)...I could go on and on.  All of that rests on our shoulders as their parents, not the shoulders of someone else.  If we aren't present in their lives because of a choice we have willingly made, especially in the formative, early years of their lives, than we are disobedient to the Lord.  Having kids is about so much more than registries and carseasts and baby showers.  It's about discipleship and obedience.  And when He has called us to something, He always makes a way for us to obey.  Always.  He doesn't promise that it will be the easiest way or that it won't cost us something, but to be in obedience to Him is a greater reward than any paycheck.  It grieves me that so many of us do not consider our theology when we become parents.  We spend more time planning our vacations and retirement than we do considering how we'll handle raising our children and making Godly disciples of them as we are commanded to do.
 Another truth to consider is that parenthood, with children under your roof, is just a season.  It's not forever and it won't always look like it does today.  I am not anti-work or under the false assumption that it's wrong for women to work or to make money.  I imagine there will be a day in the future when I am working outside the home again, in some capacity.  What I am strongly grieved about is that our kids are only little once and we only get one shot at raising them.  Too many of us are missing these days and for what???  For a job??  More money???  A better home??  But at what cost??  The cost of my kids right to have a childhood at home, with their Mom or Dad??  Believe me, I've wrestled with these same things when it's just seemed easier to get a job or get a break from 24/7 mothering. 
 I know this is heavy today and I promise I will share some "tips" and some of the great rewards of being home in Part 2.  But honestly, I think this staying at home issue is so much more of a theology issue than it is a financial one. 

It's been all over the news again this past week, the great debate about staying home vs. working outside the home, thanks to Hillary Rosen's comments.  It's never going to be an issue that doesn't divide, but truly that is not my intention here at all.  I think the very best advice I could ever give you is to just lay out the scriptures before you and remind you that God promises to give us His wisdom when we ask for it (James 1:5-8).  He will answer you if you ask Him and 1 Thess. 5:24 tells us:

"The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it."

It would be equally as helpful for me to make it clear to you, that we did not choose for me to stay home with our kids because we had the financial luxary to do so.  There was no big cushion for us to fall on or an account that we had set up in advance to soften the loss of a second income.  Those things would have been helpful, but that wasn't where we put our confidence to do this.  As President Obama reminded us in this debate, even He didn't feel his family had the luxury to have his wife at home and miss out on her $300k income.  According to their choice, his $162k salary wasn't enough for them.  I would say, with few exceptions, most of us do not have the luxury, but almost all of us have the choice.  And when Travis and I made that choice, we made it not because it was going to be easy or because it made the best financial sense.  It has not been easy and it does not make the best financial sense.  It has cost us to have me home.  Because of our choice to drop an income...

-We have had to operate within a lean budget for the last few years and probably for the forseeable future.
-We do not go out together, as often as we used to.  Date nights are a true luxury, especially with a babysitter.
-We rarely shop for ourselves and if we do, it's at a consignment shop, Target or on a good day, on sale somewhere.
-Travis doesn't have expensive hobbies anymore and neither do I. 
-We can't take big trips or fancy vacations.
-We have to be very conservative at times, sometimes it's just best for me to stay home with the kids for a string of days rather than spend the gas and money to be out doing things.
-We are not able to put our condo on the market and just take a loss in selling it.  We will have to stay put for awhile and ride this market out. 

I could go on and on, but the point is that we didn't make this choice because it was comfortable or without sacrifice.  That would be lovely if it could have been, but I don't know too many people who are in that boat.  We chose to do this because we felt like God had made it clear that it was my role to be at home with our kids, managing our household and to choose otherwise would have been disobedient and out of fear, believing that He could not provide for us and we could not make the necessary sacrifices.  He called us to pattern our marriage and our family after the parameters He set up in His Word and NEVER ONCE has He let us down.  He has provided for us, time and time again, in so many unexpected ways.  We have been able to put food on our table, pay our bills, clothe our children and provide beyond what most our world is forced to live with.  We have trusted Him and He has been faithful to us.  It's not always been easy, I'd love to change some of our circumstances, but it's been worth every dollar we may have lost to be present and involved every day with our kiddos.  I wouldn't trade these 3 years for all the money in the world.  It's been the best choice we could have possibly made for Ava and for Carter, no matter what my career might have looked like or what that means for the future.  And God willing, these 18 years with them?  They are just a season and one that is rapidly fleeting.  I'll have many years after that to pursue interests, to chase dreams, etc.  I could give in to the fear that my career won't wait for me or that I'm giving up precious years to advance and grow OR I could just trust that the Lord always knows whats best for us and He will still be Sovereign and in control when my kids leave our nest.  He will provide then, just as He's providing now.  No womens' magazine or talk show will ever agree with that logic, but every woman who fears the Lord and has gone before me only to see Him be faithful to them, will.

So before you consider IF you can stay home with your kids, my best advice is that you ask what God's design for the family is and IF you'll be obedient to it, no matter the cost.  I firmly believe that if we'll obey Him, He will make a way.  That doesn't mean it will be easy or without sacrifice, but our families and marriages are in crisis all over this globe.  I think it's obvious to draw a conclusion that the farther we've walked away from God's way of doing things, the quicker we've descended into marriages that fail, families that are fractured and future generations that have no idea how God intended any of this to go. 

It's truly been an honor I am grateful for, to have children to stay at home with and a home to manage and run.  I'm no expert, but God has made this decision more than worth it! 
And I'll tell you exactly how in another post, in addition to some ways that I've learned to be content and work within a lean budget.

Please don't give in to any condemnation here.  Only grace from my heart to yours as we seek Him together and move from being just hearers of the Word to doers...
...Because He who calls us, is FAITHFUL to do it.  Always and in everything.

Blessings to all of you Moms and Moms-to-be out there.  Our world needs you, but more than that, your children need you.  No one else can fill your shoes or be their Mom.  Only you. 
And in case you're wondering, it truly is the best job EVER, so look forward to it with great joy or embrace it today with fresh grace, knowing that His love covers all our faults and shortcomings. 

Happy Monday, friends...

1 comment:

lindsey said...

As a Christ follower, a wife to am amazing man and pastor, a former teacher, and now stay at home mom to one adorable year and a half old with the second on its is what I know to be TRUTH. Here is what I am thankful for everyday and why I get up every morning...My Lord and Savior is So.Much.Bigger. than me or any life situation or season I am in. I am thankful that my children are His. That yes, he has entrusted them to me and my husband for this time, but they are His! The joy and pure relief I find in that gets me through each day. That WITH OR WITHOUT me, my God can grow and disciple them into His man or His woman. Yes, I am called to do my very best to point them towards a saving relationship with Jesus Christ and it is my top priority, working or not. But He is not limited to my involvement or success in that, He will use many people to help grow and shape them. I'm so thankful for all the solid Christian examples I've had along the way, from my parents, to teachers, to mentors, to friends. I'm trusting my Lord will provide the same for my children. So thankfully, my Lord is bigger than my staying at home or my working. He isn't limited to or by either:) Thank you, Jesus, for how you gift us each differently and how you have a unique calling for each of our lives. Thank you for your unexplainable, unlimited love and power.