Being a mum is a huge commitment. From the time we cuddle our first little bundle of joy until the day we die, we never stop caring for and about our kids. As a mother of five adult kids and six beautiful grandchildren, I have experienced almost every combination of working inside and outside the home. Right now I work full-time, with my husband having retired (or perhaps being ‘semi-retired’) from full-time ministry a few years ago. I can look back on the hectic days when we all lived together as a family, reflect on the present stage of life and even try to imagine the future as I grow older. We Christian mums face some big issues in trying to get the balance ‘right’ in our lives. Does being a mum define me? Am I neglecting my kids if I work outside the home? How much ministry do I have time to be involved in? I would want to answer those questions in the context of bigger issues – my relationship with Christ, my relationship with my husband, my family’s needs, my own particular gifts and training, and my situation and opportunities. All of these have an impact on what shape our mothering takes.
Mums are always working
My husband and I became Christians six months into our marriage, and what a roller coaster it has been! Our mortgage repayments amounted to just 9% of our combined income, and when our first child was born, 37 years ago, I never thought I would ever work outside the home again. How times have changed! Alongside the economic realities of a big family, various opportunities came my way to do further study, to work from home, to work in a casual or part-time capacity, to study (again), and now to work full-time.
Through all these years, with a growing family, I’ve also been involved in ministries ranging from hospitality to women’s and kids’ ministries. I firmly believe God has provided me with these opportunities to extend myself in ways I could never have imagined. Always I have thought of myself as a wife and mother first. Times and circumstances change – and every woman is a unique creation – but God’s principles remain the same and it is these that we can turn to in that constant struggle to find the ‘right’ balance.
Seven tips for Christian mums
As mums, we are constantly under pressure – managing time, getting enough rest, rushing off to work, looking after the family, shopping etc. There are always reasons why we might be short-tempered, cranky and irritable. My constant prayer is that I will be godly under pressure. But how can I achieve that? I can’t claim to have got it right, but here are some tips that have helped me:
- Put God first. He loves me. He gives me hope for the future, even when things look bleak. He helps me to get things into perspective. I can talk to him about my kids, pray for my family, and spend time with him, soaking up his love. Kids are smart enough to know when what we do doesn’t line up with what we say. Cultivate a real faith that makes a difference! Set aside some time each day to read the Bible and pray.
- Reflect on my priorities. God’s way is that he is first, my husband is next and my children fit in after that. As mums, we sometimes get so preoccupied with our kids that our husbands feel neglected. This is not good! I need to learn to ask my husband because, believe me, he’s not a mind-reader.
- Acknowledge my stage of life and balance opportunities and commitments. There are times when our kids are all-consuming. Who can forget those early days with a newborn, or the toddler years, or the years of helping with homework? Figuring out how to juggle kids, work or other commitments is a constantly changing challenge. I’ve never made a decision about working without talking to my husband about it. He has always been a great encouragement, but these are family decisions because they have family implications. We’re a team and we pray together. For single mums, it’s a lot more complicated with less ‘on-tap’ family support and often nobody else to run ideas by or stand in when needed. We need to support each other as mums.
- Pray for my children. This is part of the fabric of my life. Day and night, my husband and I pray that our kids will honour God, we pray for their marriages or future marriages, their children, and so on. How else do we cope with the pressures and setbacks of being a mum? Through those long sleepless nights, God is always there to listen to my concerns.
- Be prepared to work hard, at home and at work. Being a mum is hard work in every way –emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. It is not for the faint-hearted. And if we’re mums working outside the home, we have another level of responsibility to juggle. As Christians, our work is part of our witness: God wants us to shine like lights wherever we are. This doesn’t happen by accident. It requires wise planning, industry and diligence, and the stamina to see it through. Ask for God’s help, try to be the best at work you can be.
- Be willing to seek advice. This is a tough one. I can be stubborn, but I need to learn to reflect on my life, repent of my mistakes, and take advice. It helps to gravitate to wise godly women who have walked the path ahead of me.
- Be supportive of my Christian sisters... whatever their situation, whether they are working mums, stay-at-home mums, single mums, married mums, mums of older kids or younger kids, or grand-mums. We’re in this journey together. Let’s not be judgmental, let’s admit our struggles, share honestly, pray together, and encourage one another.
For more articles from Growing Faith, subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter.
To hear about the latest books and resources from Youthworks Media, subscribe here.