Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Work, Pray: The Working Woman of the Bible

Although I am in a two year sleep deficit and completely booked through the year 2027, I have decided to start a blog. I also plan to do my best to keep up with my blog and pray it can be a help to other working moms who have developed fever blisters and teeth grinding disorders as they work to balance the joys of family with the stress and guilt that come along with being a mom on the career track. However, there is a chance that another living soul will never look at this blog, and that’s okay, too. Anyway, back to this working mom thing…

Yes, I know it is 2012. I am aware that women have been working outside the home for decades and I should not feel any guilt about providing for my family. Believe me, I tell myself that every day. That doesn’t change the fact that I feel guilt as a mother, particularly as a Christian mother, about leaving my child for the day as I go off to work. I have the perfect setup. I leave my child with a grandparent or a close friend when I go off to work and I know she is nurtured and cared for while I am away. I do work from home whenever possible and take her along with me when I am able. Nevertheless, I still feel the guilt. Sometimes I am not sure it is only guilt; it’s also shame and, at risk of sounding dramatic, grief.

Before becoming a mother, I managed to be oblivious to the pressures mothers in the church face. Suddenly, the sermons admonishing mothers to be keepers of the home began stinging. Insinuations that families with two working parents were living beyond their means caused me to hang my head. Instead of being asked what I do for a living, I was asked if I stayed home with my child; the reply of no brought looks of disappointment and, even worse, pity. Facebook profiles of Christian friends listed their professions as SAHMs and I felt these twinges of envy that I had trouble overcoming. I wanted to scream to the world, “I want to be a SAHM, too, but my family NEEDS my paycheck!”

Now, I know the grief thing sounds pretty dramatic, but I think we all grieve dreams. I spent my adolescence and early adulthood dreaming of long days spent with my 2.5 children…well, 2 or 3 generally appeared in my dreams. I don’t make a practice of dreaming of half-children. Otherwise I would have already made a fortune writing horror novels. Anyway, I spent the first 18 months of my daughter Lily’s life grieving the loss of a dream. There are still times I find myself so sad to miss out on the little day to day things. When she was approaching a milestone, I would hope and pray she would have that particular first on my watch. I was blessed to ease back into the career world, following my maternity leave with part-time work until Lily was 18 months, but still I grieved.

One day I made a decision that I could cope with the grief, but the shame and guilt had to go. As a Christian, I have always found the Bible to be my source of strength. I have always looked to the virtuous wife of Proverbs 31:10-31. For so long I pictured this woman working away in the home, but the closer I read I find a woman who quite frequently works outside the home and it gives me hope, confidence and new energy!

She works with her hands, provides food for her household by bring it from afar, buys a field and plants a vineyard, makes and sells clothing and takes care of her family and those in need. It sounds like she spends some time working outside the home and somehow she is found virtuous and worthy of praise. I don’t think God intended for us to use Proverbs 31 to exalt mothers who work outside the home over those who don’t or vice versa. I believe we should look at this woman in the way of the obligations we have to our family and our community as Christian women.

Are our households provided for sufficiently? Are we teaching our children to be Godly? Can our husbands trust us? Is our family clothed and fed? Are we teaching our children to be kind and to honor God? If all these things are accomplished, then we are doing God’s will. Some may accomplish these things by working outside the home, and others will accomplish this by staying at home.

For me, working outside the home means my family has what we need and my husband and I are meeting our financial obligations. There are no reasons for guilt. There are no reasons for shame. Do I still grieve the loss of a dream? Sure, but that grief is erased daily as joy takes its place. God has blessed me with a loving husband, an adorable child and the comfort found in His word. For that, I am extremely thankful. :)

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