I’m a Christian mom of young children and I work full-time outside the home. I often feel that should be confessed as if it’s an addiction and I’m in AA – particularly around other Christians. I shouldn’t have to feel this way, especially in the church, but somehow the fact that I’m a mom and a working professional ostracizes me from the church community.
When did the church become the least safe place around to be real about my situation in life, my feelings, and my struggles?
I grew up with a mom who was a teacher.
She quit working when I was born and went back to work when I was in first grade. Without consciously thinking about it, I assumed I would do the same. In my mind, that's just the way you did things. It never occurred to me that there was an issue with women, moms in particular, who worked.
I grew up in churches where women's roles either weren't an issue or at the very least, weren’t a primary focus. At the church we attended when I was in junior high and high school, the pastor’s wife was also an ordained minister and occasionally preached. While there was a focus on relationships and family, I don’t ever recall a sermon or teaching on a woman’s role being one of submission or focused solely on the home and family. In fact, the only women-specific teaching I remember is one in junior high, about the woman with the issue of blood who touched Jesus’ cloak and was healed. While I’d heard the story many times before, it was the first time I realized what the issue of blood was, and I was horrified – mainly because there were boys in the room.
After high school, I attended college, got a degree, and started working in a professional job. I also got an MBA, partly because I had the time and partly because it seemed like it would open the door to teaching at a collegiate level while allowing a schedule that seemed to easily work around kids, when I had them.
During that same timeframe I was single, and after college, I attended a church where women's roles were a Very. Big. Deal. Women with children stayed home. Period. Unless you were crafty and sold your crafts out of your home or had some other "acceptable" way of making money while still being with the children full-time – because heaven forbid someone else raise your children!
Without realizing it, this message soon overrode all others and when I became a wife and then a mom, my work status became a major issue and cause for internal angst and external judgment.
While I fully recognize the whole Working Mom versus Stay-at-Home Mom debate clearly isn't limited to Christian circles, Christian women have the added burden of worrying how much we are disappointing God by our choices. And it is entirely too big of a burden for anyone to bear - especially when it’s not true. Frankly, the reasons I choose to work are nobody’s business beyond those directly involved – which is limited to my immediate family and myself.
Does it really matter if it’s financial necessity or “selfish” reasons? Either way, guilt and shame helps no one, and I’m pretty sure Jesus himself was the one to defend people who were judged and shamed by Pharisees.
I’ve been a mom for four years. In that time, I’ve worked outside the home full-time, worked from home with verging levels of childcare and part-time gigs, and have been a stay-at-home mom. All have had equal, though different, challenges.
Where am I now?
I'm continuing to put myself out there and share my story. I’m working on not going on the defensive when asked the question, “Oh, do you stay home?” I struggle myself with asking how women spend their days in a manner that’s non-offensive.
I'm also learning to be wiser with input. No matter how much wonderful advice there is out there for moms that seem to primarily target the stay-at-home ones, if it induces even the slightest bit of guilt on me, those sources are off my reading list.
Just last week I met a fellow Christian mom who is actively using her advanced degree. Maybe we’ll become friends.
Read more confessions from anonymous contributors.