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39 || To Work or Not to Work: That is the Question

If you are looking for a great debate, look no further than your own back yard. Gun control? Fiscal cliff, you say? No, it’s not what you might think, but people are just as passionate on both sides of the fence on this issue: Should a parent work or stay at home to raise their children? Which side is the right side?

I know what you are thinking. It sounds ridiculous. It can’t be that controversial, right? WRONG! Just ask any parent, working or not, their opinion, and you are guaranteed to have a heated discussion within minutes.

Growing up, my husband and I were both raised by working mothers, and I always felt the call to teach. When we moved, I secured a teaching job in a low income area. It was a tough job, but I loved my coworkers. I felt like I was on mission for God, giving my students love, direction and guidance. I had recently become a Christian and was content and growing in my faith.

Burn Out or Something Else

Fast forward five years, one child and two miscarriages later, I found myself in a job that felt mission-less and a home that felt disconnected. I was exhausted, beaten down and burned out trying to be everything to everyone. Trying to balance the demands of my job, maintaining our household, helping raise our daughter and loving my husband well became overwhelming. It was like running a race I was never going to win. I was spread so thin.

After our second miscarriage, I finally slowed down long enough to look at my life and really examine my heart. I remember sitting next to my husband with a tear soaked face, discussing my feelings and wondering how I ended up here. The miscarriages alone had been tough enough on our family. How was I going to go back to work after summer break to a job I no longer had passion for? I thought God wanted me to be a teacher. Why was it so hard to take care of my family and do the job he called me to do? Had I completely misread God’s plans?

I realized I had lost God’s vision for our family. No matter how hard I tried to balance everything, I just couldn’t make it happen.

My priorities had become misplaced: mother, teacher, wife, friend and child of God—in that order. When I stopped long enough to really think about it, it made me sick. No wonder I felt like a train wreck! That was not the order God had designed. He wants me to put Him first in all things. When I do, everything else falls into place. I can be a better wife, mother and worker when I line up my heart with God’s first.

When I removed God from that number one spot, I soon began reflecting the broken ideas of this world: selfishness and pride. Without consulting God in how He wanted me to be a partner to my husband, mother of my child and caretaker of our home, I ended up neglecting the most important callings in my life.

I was burned out and missed my family.

God showed me my need to re-prioritize and take a break from my job. It wasn’t that I hadn’t been called to teach, but it was time for a something new. The answer was clear, but I resisted. Why? Well, the short answer was pride. I asked God for help, and when His answer didn’t match the one I had in mind, I panicked. He started revealing all of my idols at once.

I resisted because this was not what I had on my agenda; this was not a part of my plan. I didn’t know how to be a stay-at-home mom. I went to college for crying out loud! Why would I want to trade that for some 1950s house-wife role? The thought of doing chores and taking care of kids all day felt tedious and lackluster. I was going to DO something with my life and change the world.

That’s why I had become a teacher, right?

Identity/Comfort/Pride In My Job

What would my working friends think? That I can’t hack it in the real world? Will they mistake me for one of those stereotypical Starbucks and playdate moms that doesn’t want to work? There was my approval idol.

How will we afford for me to stay at home? Money idol.

I was afraid of judgment. I had too much pride. I felt like leaving my job meant that I was a failure, like it must be a sign of weakness that I couldn’t keep it all together. If I chose to stay at home I would be making what some say was the biblical or acceptable choice. After all, there were times I felt judged and looked down upon for working. Then, of course, there were friends on the other side who looked at me as if I was losing my mind to stay at home and give up my purpose in teaching.

I realized I was more concerned about what other people thought of my decision than what God thought of my decision. I was measuring my worth by this world’s standards and the unrealistic expectation that I could do life all by myself.

I had found my identity in my job rather than in God.

After a lot of praying, my husband and I decided to make a leap of faith. I quit my job to stay at home with our daughter. I had to let go of my fears and trust that if God was calling me to this decision, He would equip me.

Although it was not been an easy transition, not a day goes by that God doesn’t affirm I made the right choice for my family. I have found joy in providing for my family in a different way. I feel I am filling a role God created for me. Not because I am staying at home, but because my priorities are now in check. I have enjoyed seeing the positive impact our choice has had on our family.

There is no right or wrong answer to that question of whether anyone should work or stay home with their kids—as far as other people should be concerned, that is. What does matter is where you fit God into that decision. Are you lining up your life and priorities with His plans for you? Is God central in your life? Where does your identity lie? Are you burned out, or do you feel blessed?

God has shown me that while this choice is right for me and my family, it does not mean it is right for everyone.  Working does not make you a bad parent or mean you love your children any less. Just as staying at home does not make your work any less important than working parents. It is an issue of the heart.

After living on both sides of the fence, I believe God has cautioned us to constantly evaluate our hearts and our priorities. No matter what side you find yourself on, if your answers do not match God’s, maybe it is time to reexamine your heart.

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