I have been a mother now for almost 13 years and I confess that I began that journey believing that being a stay-at-home mum was a more godly option than choosing to work in paid employment. I believed a mother who chose to work for an income away from her children was selfish and worldly. (I cringe as I re-read this but it is sadly true.)
I had an epiphany when I was in the early years of mothering: the Bible does not teach directly about how women are to fill their days. Certainly the Proverbs 31 woman was industrious and Eve in the garden was to be Adam’s helper in working and ruling over the world God had created. But there is no mention of what the children were doing and with whom, while these women were ‘working’. To hinge the ‘at home mother’ argument on Titus 2:4–5 alone is a weak argument.
While I didn’t reconsider going into the workforce myself, this epiphany made me a lot more gracious towards and less judgmental of other women’s decisions. I was fortunate that we could make ends meet and so be at home with the ‘littlies’. It is an extraordinary thing to be entrusted with another person’s life and wellbeing who is solely dependent on you (let alone two, three, four or more)! To raise children to the glory of God is a weighty thing. So whether at home or at work, we do need to depend on our Lord in prayer and to be continually asking, ‘How can I best glorify God in my actions, decisions and words?’
Being a stay-at-home mum reveals to me how much of a sinner I am. It is so hard to love selflessly, wisely, kindly, and patiently with grace, mercy and forgiveness. This is, of course, true of all parents but there are unique revelations to be had when you are with small children 24/7. The beautiful thing is that my growing awareness of my sin continues to show me, in increasing measure, the glory of God – his perfect parenthood and his boundless grace. And that is wonderful. My increasing awareness of my sin helps me to marvel at and depend on my heavenly Father.
Some things that I have learned (either from God’s word, good advice or personal error and struggle) which are worth sharing are:
- Work on your relationship with Jesus. Don’t become a ‘whitewashed tomb’. Be realistic in how you manage your daily devotions. On some days reading a paragraph in the Bible, praying brief ‘arrow prayers’ and perhaps listening to some Christian music are a massive achievement. I love the fact that Jesus tells us his burden is light (Matthew 11:30). If his burden is feeling too heavy, then something is awry.
- Remember you are not Jesus – he is the Saviour of the world. I have pushed on beyond my limits many a time wanting to serve Jesus and his church to the detriment of every member of my family.
- Learn your capacity and try to live a measure within it. There are always surprises in life that you need room for. Sickness and injury of children, your spouse, extended family members or friends never happens on a schedule – nor does emotional distress, additional school commitments etc.
- Remember to keep teaching your children about Jesus in a meaningful way. It must rank very high on the priority list. Don’t give up the fight to make it happen – otherwise the devil wins.
- God is for me and for you. Consciously choose not to be at war with your children but to be for them. At those moments when your relationship is a struggle, say to yourself, ‘God is for me and I am for you’. I say to my kids, ‘You know, I am on your side’.
- Remember you are a teacher and your children are your students. Your kids don’t come with a bank of life knowledge and often learning a lesson comes with practice and training. This includes obedience. They aren’t setting out to make your life difficult when they haven’t learned the lesson the first time.
- Get your children doing tasks from as early as possible. In the Scriptures, we are strongly encouraged not to be lazy but to be productive. I consider it a gift to enable my kids to leave their family home, confident to manage themselves in key life skills and knowing that it is important to be responsible and a contributor to the family and community.
- Plan your days as much as you can. I have found routine to be most helpful in every area of parenting. If planning doesn’t come naturally to you, just try to plan a little more than you do. Having a loose schedule has many benefits: children respond well to routine; you can look at how you are spending your time and assess it; you can know your limitations; and you can know the basics – such as Bible and prayer time and food in the fridge – are covered.
- Work on having time each day when you are emotionally ‘present’ with your kids, wanting to hear their thoughts. I find this surprisingly difficult. It is easy to spend time with them and around them but not actually engage with them. My current challenge is technology – I have resolved this morning to try not to be on email, Facebook, etc. in their presence.
- Take people at their word. If you get offered assistance and support, take it! And if you need it, ask for it! When you are able, look for opportunities to give support to others.
- Model Christian priorities: be committed to church, Bible Study, hospitality and generosity (obviously these are just a few).
- Talk about God in the comings and goings of life. Deuteronomy 6 makes it clear that teaching your children about God is more than just a daily Bible teaching time.
- Cultivate a love of your family. Make meals together a priority, go on holidays, talk your family up and pray regularly with thanksgiving for each member of your family. A secure and loving family life has a profoundly positive impact on each person in it.
I am glad and thankful to be a ‘stay-at-home mum’. I love my children and am thankful for the blessing it is to serve them, teach them about their Lord and to grow in godliness as I do that. I will always want to do better. I am only a model parent because I am very aware of the ways I fail and need to depend on my Lord’s grace and mercy for each and every day – and I do that imperfectly too!