Working Mothers

The Beacon Lights’ staff asked me for a mother’s answer to the question: “Should mothers work outside the home?” Having abandoned two previous attempts, I’ll try this one last time to answer in such a way as to bring out the principle. I can’t, you can’t, no one can legislate things that pertain to a Christian conscience. Obviously, a list of vocations (nurse, teacher, etc.), rules, hours, and conditions (“home by three”) gets to be pretty silly. Besides, any such man-made catalogues are bound to have exceptions, loopholes, and absurdities built in. What we need is a principle. Namely, what is the calling of the God-fearing mother?

The calling to Motherhood – that is some calling! There probably isn’t a more basic and important calling anywhere among God’s people. What an office! We Mothers have the honor to be called to nurture the Covenant Seed. And, ah me! It’s not easy. It’s a “precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little” task. It’s backwards five and a half steps for every six forwards. It’s a thing of patience and faith, of drudgery, of enduring loneliness, of boredom. It’s the unremitting, bitter battles with our own selfishness, spiritual apathy, self pity, and our own rebellious and vicious natures. It’s a task that demands us to make our selves the lowest of servants. And, finally, it is a Christ-like calling. For it is He who made Himself of no reputation that He might redeem His Children and bring them to the Father.

May I digress parenthetically here to say – Fathers, pray for us Mothers! How little you suspect the sin that plagues our hearts. You think us safely tucked away from the world and its temptations. But, oh, how our natures fight against our calling! Ask any woman who expects a child. Ask her how her sinful nature plagues her even as she tries to keep her spiritual eyes on the heavenly goal and the Covenant. Sometimes we are in despair – how can we hope to nurture God’s children when we can’t even conquer our own rebellious hearts! Fathers and brothers, pray for us Mothers in Israel!

To return to the subject, a Mother’s calling is an absurdity to the world. The ungodly can not begin to comprehend even the idea of bringing forth the Covenant Seed, of finding and making one’s deepest joy consist of service, loving service, and sacrifice of self for God’s sake. The discipline of love, the godly seeking after righteousness in your children, and all such callings of Motherhood are foolishness to the unregenerate heart.

Ironically, the world’s mothers often seem to be better mothers. Certainly, they have a smaller family to cope for. With worldlings this is considered a virtue. Along with this comes more “peace-and-quiet”, more efficient, orderly houses, more healthy, wealthy, glamourous and sometimes fiercely partisan mothers. But these things are an empty shell, a hull without a kernel. The ungodly cannot know their own or their children’s sin; they cannot conceive of Repentance. They would say in honeyed tones: “Repentance from what?” Salvation for the worldling could only refer to ease, lack of pain or suffering, and gain of wealth, prestige, or power. As to Communion of the Saints, the ungodly can only experience a “generation gap” between people who have nothing but their sin and selfishness in common. What about the life of Thankfulness? Look around; you’ll find only dissatisfaction. At every checkpoint of the Christian calling it is evident; that inner core, the motive of true Motherhood is simply not present in an ungodly heart. If we do not belong to our faithful Saviour, we are only sham mothers, which is a sobering thought.

Finally and practically, how does the Christian Mother follow her calling, specifically now with regards to the question of working outside the home? Personally, I fail to see any difference between working outside or inside. Whenever ANY work (maybe it’s sewing, giving piano lessons, bookkeeping, or answering your husband’s business phone) begins to use up the vitality, the store of patience, emotional energy, and just plain time that Mothers before God and for His sake owe to their children – whatever or wherever it takes place – it is wrong. It’s wrong no matter what the avowed end is supposed to achieve, be it tuition payments, bazaar projects “for the school”, or just plain money to pay the bills.

I have not said outside jobs are always wrong. Neither have I implied that outside interests cannot be beneficial for both mother and children. But I do insist that whenever a mother steals – even from her own strength – from the nurture of God’s children, she is stealing from Him. If a job saps your power, your patience, or your time, or diminishes your power to love, nurture and mother God’s children, then drop that job – even it it’s your housework. But it short. Forget that sinful pride, that wicked obsession. Don’t shoo God’s little ones off to a T.V. babysitter to keep your carpeting clean, or your kitchen uncluttered. Don’t let anything – house, wardrobe, “nerves”, pride, let alone greed for luxuries and gadgets – rob you of your precious calling. Your job is a beautiful, Christ-like office to serve humbly, submissively, and often without visible reward. Mothers-in-Christ, let us lay up our treasures in Heaven. May God grant us the grace to do so.