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Family CommentariesWorking Moms
I want to start by saying that the main purpose of this website is to support and encourage mothers in what I believe to be godly children rearing. The "Should mothers work outside of the home?" issue is a side issue, so I have been somewhat reluctant to get into it to any great extent. I am understanding of the moms who come here, who work. I am not in their shoes, so I don't know all the issues involved in each case, and I am very willing to assume they have good reasons for doing what they are doing. I'd rather just move on to childrearing issues and help them where they are at. However, because repeated questions have been raised in this area, and because whether a mom works or doesn't work may have a profound influence upon how her children are raised, I feel it is best for me to at least express my general views on the subject. Again, I do not know all the particulars of every case so I make it a point to try to assume the best of everyone, and I also try to assume that I  don't know everything and I could be wrong, please be patient as you all read this, and try not to take anything too personally. If you have questions, please ask, and I will try to explain my point of view more clearly.

This is long, so I have broken it up into several parts. I would also like to note that what I have written is basically pertaining to mothers of young children who would have to place them in the care of others if they were to go to work. 

To work or not to work:

I believe that God's ideal is that the husband be the primary provider and protector for and of his family. The wife is to be his "helper", and therefore it is reasonable to assume that she is to "help" in these areas as needed, but she is not to be the head or even equal with her husband. In exceptional cases she may be forced to do more than is ideal, or even to take over her husband's job for a period of time, but this is an exception, not the norm, and certainly not the ideal way God set things up. 

This picture of the husband as the provider and protector, is the consistent example given to us throughout all of scripture. The Bible covers a long time span, so I don't think one can claim that this had to do with the "culture of the times". This is God's ideal picture for all of us, always. 

We no longer live in the Garden of Eden, and because of the many sins of mankind including our own, our modern society is far from God's ideal, still, I believe that as Christians we should be striving for God's ideal in every area of life including this one. If we want the ideal Christian marriage and family, we can start by aiming at God's ideal picture of the husband being the provider and protector, and the wife being the helper and keeper in the home.

Where we are today:

Now that we've discussed God's original plan let's fast forward to the way it is today. Today the mainstream thought is that women are the same as men, and are to be judged according to the standard set forth for men. Generally speaking, a woman's worth nowadays, is based on her ability to succeed as a man. In short, her ability to bring in a good cash income. If she does not work, or is not highly educated and therefore able to bring in a good income if desired, she is considered inferior. Her skills as a keeper in the home are considered insignificant. Her skills as a mother and wife are taken for granted. Her God given role has been devalued almost down to nothing.

Sadly, both men and women seem to have embraced this distortion of God's plan. While one might expect it where it is found in worldly educational institutions, we also find this viewpoint being strongly supported within the Christian church as well. Indeed, it is very rare to find a place where motherhood and the role of a wife as a true "helpmeet" is being held in the high esteem God originally gave it. 

"But today the wife must work":

We have all been told that it is "different" in today's world, and that women "have" to work, and that a family can not survive on one income. Frankly, I don't believe it, and I would strongly counsel my daughters not to marry a man who believed it. I think that is mostly a smoke screen for the devaluation of the God given role of women. It is an easy out for men who lack the ambition or sense of responsibility to support their families adequately. It is an easy out for wives who are not happy with their role as mother and keeper in the home, or for wives who are not content with what their husbands are able to provide. It is also a clear sign that that there is a lack of understand and appreciation for the God prescribed role of a wife and mother.

We live in one of the most prosperous periods of history and in one of the most prosperous countries in the world (for me, the USA). If an unmarried man can support himself without assistance (and I really don't know many who can't), I think he can support a wife too. Yes, and children. When they are little they cost almost nothing, and when they are older they can help work to support the family as needed. My own father quit school in the 10th grade in order to support his widowed mother and his brother. The old saying "two can live as cheaply as one" is often very true. By saving and spending wisely and in many other ways, a helpmeet/wife can "help" her husband make ends meet. I will get to exceptions later, but for now, I think I can safely say that most men can support a wife and children without his wife having to work outside the home, if only he has a mind to do it, and if only she is agreeable. And of course she may (and should) "help" as needed, but the key word is "help", not "share and share alike". They might have to make some sacrifices, or lower their standard of living, but it can be done.

The exceptions:

I will be the first one to agree that, because of the sin of Adam, and because of the sins of all of mankind, there are exceptions to this perfect picture of the wife staying home raising the children and the husband supporting the family with his income alone. The husband may become sick or injured. The wife may become abandoned or widowed. The husband may temporarily be out of work, or some special family crisis may arise. If frugality is not enough to make ends meet, then the simple answer in many cases is for the wife to seek employment outside of the home. If it is very short term, and if the children are being adequately cared for (preferable by dad) then I might reluctantly agree. However, I think it is better to first consider other options such as:

- Asking family or the church for assistance.
- Seeking work that can be done from the home.
- Seeking outside work that allows the mother to bring her children with her (as opposed to leaving them in daycare).
- Downsizing to a smaller/less expensive home or to an apartment.
- Selling off possessions like second cars, etc.
- Seeking advice from other godly Christian couples who have found creative ways to overcome financial difficulties.


As time allows, I will try to address the following issues more fully, but for now here are some brief questions and answers:

What about moms with no children or older children?

As I said in the beginning, I am mostly speaking about mothers with young children. If there are no children then it may become more of a personal issue between husband and wife. If the children are older, and not in the home anyway, then again, it may become more of a personal issue between husband and wife.

What if my husband wants me to work?

I believe that submission to one's husband comes before the staying home ideal. Therefore, if your husband insists that you work, and you are unable to persuade him otherwise, then I'd say you must work.

What if it is unpaid work?

All mothers do things beside sit and stare at their children all day. The question is whether they can adequately raise and care for their homes and children while doing these other things. If church volunteer work, or hobbies, or home businesses, or any other thing, gets in the way of her main job of mothering and being a godly wife, then I think it is wrong.

What about church daycares?

I am generally against church daycares as I feel they encourage mothers to work outside the home, who do not strictly have to work. I am all for helping out moms who truly must work, with daycare, or job offers that allow her to bring her children along, or various other creative alternatives, or even with direct financial assistance, but I am against encouraging moms who to do not have to work, to work outside of their homes and leave their children in the care of others.

Favorite Quote:

I just finished reading The Mouse That Roared, by Leonard Wibberley, and therein found a very interesting exchange I'd like to share.  Near the very end of the book, after the tiny country of Grand Fenwick mistakenly conquers the United States of America, and inadvertently becomes the most powerful country in the world, the Count of Mountjoy calls upon the beautiful young Duchess of Grand Fenwick, Glorianna XII, to do her duty to her country and marry.

"I hope", said Gloriana warily, "that you are not going to suggest that I marry the American minister, because I won't do it. I've been reading about the Americans in a women's magazine and they're all cruel to their wives."

"Cruel to their wives?" echoed the count.

"Precisely. They treat them as equals.  They refuse to make any decisions without consulting them.  They load them up with worries they should keep to themselves.  And when there isn't enough money, they send them out to work instead of earning more by their own efforts.  Some of them even make their wives work so they can go to college.  They are not men at all.  They are men-women.  And their wives are women-men.  If I am to marry, I want a husband who will be a man and let me be a woman.  I'll be able to handle him better that way."

(c) Copyright 2007 L. Elizabeth Krueger.  All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.