Finding Fulfillment as a Mother
THROUGHOUT the world today, the majority of women work outside the home. In industrialized nations, nearly as many women as men are in paid employment. In developing countries, women often toil for many hours in agricultural work to help provide for their families.
Many women are torn between the need to earn a living and the desire to care for their family and home. These women not only provide money to pay for food, clothing, and shelter but also cook the food, wash the clothes, and clean the home.
In addition, Christian mothers endeavor to inculcate spiritual values in their children. “Frankly, balancing work and family responsibilities is very hard, especially when you have young children,” admits Cristina, a mother of two young girls. “It’s not easy to give the children all the attention they need.”
What drives mothers to join the workforce? What challenges do they face? And is it necessary for a mother to work secularly to find fulfillment?
Why Mothers Work
For many mothers, holding down a full-time job is an absolute necessity. Some have no spouse to share the economic burden. Other couples discover that one wage is simply not sufficient to cover the basic needs of the family.
True, not all mothers work full-time because of economic necessity. A significant number work outside the home to boost their sense of self-worth. Some may work to gain a measure of financial independence or to pay for luxuries. Many are good at their job and enjoy it.
Peer pressure might be another reason why some mothers feel compelled to work secularly. Even though most people acknowledge that working mothers constantly battle stress and exhaustion, those who choose not to take a secular job are often misunderstood—even ridiculed. “It is not easy to explain to others that you are ‘just a housewife,’” confessed one woman. “Some people imply by their words or their expressions that you are wasting your life,” she says. Rebeca, the mother of a two-year-old daughter, says: “Although the society in which we live recognizes that women should care for their children, I feel that it views mothers who do no secular work as somehow inferior.”
Myth Versus Reality
In some areas of the world, the media portrays the “ideal woman” as successful in her chosen career—highly paid, immaculately dressed, and totally self-assured. When she gets home, she has the energy to solve her children’s problems, correct her husband’s mistakes, and handle any domestic crisis. Understandably, few real women can live up to this illusion.
In practice, many secular jobs that women obtain are monotonous and relatively low paying. To their chagrin, working mothers may find that their job does not enable them to use their natural abilities to the full. The book Social Psychology points out: “Despite progress toward equality, men continue to occupy better paid and higher powered jobs. Women who build their identities around their work are therefore at a distinct disadvantage.” The Spanish newspaper El País states: “In the case of women, it is calculated that they have a three times greater probability of suffering stress-related anxiety than men have, since the vast majority have a double shift—one at work and one at home.”
How Husbands Can Help
Of course, whether a Christian mother should work secularly or not is a personal decision. However, if married, she and her husband should make such a decision only after discussing the matter and carefully weighing all the factors involved.—Proverbs 14:15.
What if a couple decide that out of sheer economic necessity, both of them have to work full-time? In that case, a wise husband will pay particular attention to the Bible’s admonition: “You husbands must show understanding in your married life: treat your wives with respect, not only because they are physically weaker, but also because God’s gift of life is something you share together.” (1 Peter 3:7, The Revised English Bible) A husband shows respect for his wife by being sensitive to her physical and emotional limitations. Whenever possible, he will help his wife with domestic chores. Like Jesus, a husband will be willing to carry out menial tasks humbly, not shunning such work as somehow being beneath his dignity. (John 13:12-15) Instead, he will view these chores as an opportunity to show his love for his hardworking wife. She will greatly appreciate such help.—Ephesians 5:25, 28, 29.
Without a doubt, if both spouses must work secularly, cooperation at home is vital. That fact is underscored by a report in ABC, a newspaper in Spain. Commenting on a study conducted by the Institute of Family Matters, the article blamed the high divorce rate in Spain not only on “the loss of religious and moral standards” but also on the combination of two other factors—“the entry of women into the workforce and the failure of men to help with household chores.”
A Christian Mother’s Vital Role
While Jehovah assigns to fathers the primary responsibility of training their children, Christian mothers know that they too are entrusted with a vital role—especially during the child’s infancy. (Proverbs 1:8; Ephesians 6:4) Jehovah addressed both mothers and fathers when he instructed the Israelites to inculcate his Law in their children. He knew that this process would take time and patience, particularly during the child’s formative years. For this reason, God told parents that they should train their children at home, on the road, when getting up, and when lying down.—Deuteronomy 6:4-7.
God’s Word emphasizes the important and dignified role of mothers when it commands children: “Do not forsake the law of your mother.” (Proverbs 6:20) Of course, a married woman would consult with her husband before laying down any laws for the children. Yet, as that verse indicates, mothers have the right to make laws. And children who take to heart the spiritual and moral laws taught by a God-fearing mother will benefit greatly. (Proverbs 6:21, 22) Teresa, a mother with two young boys, explained why she does not seek secular employment. She said: “Bringing up my children to serve God is the most important task I have. I want to do this job in the best possible way.”
Mothers Who Made a Difference
Israelite King Lemuel certainly profited from the conscientious efforts of his mother. “The weighty message” that she gave him “in correction” has even been included as part of God’s inspired Word. (Proverbs 31:1; 2 Timothy 3:16) This mother’s description of a capable wife still helps sons to make a wise choice of a marriage mate. And her warnings about immorality and excessive drinking are as relevant today as they were when first recorded.—Proverbs 31:3-5, 10-31.
In the first century, the apostle Paul praised the fine work that a mother named Eunice accomplished in teaching her son Timothy. Since her unbelieving husband probably worshipped Greek gods, Eunice needed to persuade Timothy to put faith in “the holy writings.” When did Eunice begin to teach Timothy the Scriptures? The inspired record states that it was “from infancy”—in other words, from the time Timothy was a baby. (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14, 15) Her own faith and example, as well as her teaching, obviously prepared Timothy for his future missionary service.—Philippians 2:19-22.
The Bible also refers to mothers whose hospitality toward loyal servants of God enabled their children to have contact with excellent role models. For instance, a Shunammite woman regularly received the prophet Elisha into her home. Her son was later raised from the dead by Elisha. (2 Kings 4:8-10, 32-37) Consider also the example of Mary, the mother of the Bible writer Mark. She apparently offered her home in Jerusalem as a meeting place for the early disciples. (Acts 12:12) Mark surely benefited from the companionship of the apostles and other Christians who regularly came to his home.
Clearly, Jehovah highly values the labor of faithful women who instill his principles in their children. He loves these women for their loyalty and their efforts to create a spiritual environment in the home.—2 Samuel 22:26; Proverbs 14:1.
The Most Fulfilling Choice
As the preceding Scriptural examples show, caring well for the family’s physical, spiritual, and emotional needs brings unique rewards. But doing so is no easy task. A mother’s job at home often seems more demanding than any high-powered executive position.
True, if a mother, after seeking her husband’s direction, chooses to limit her secular employment, the family may have to reduce their standard of living and she may have to endure some ridicule from those who do not understand her thinking. But the rewards can more than compensate for the sacrifice. Paqui has three children and needs to work part-time. She says: “I like to be there when the children come home from school so that they have someone to talk to.” How do her children benefit? “I help them with their homework, and if problems come up, I can handle them right away,” she says. “The time we spend together every day helps to keep the lines of communication open. I value this time with my children so much that I turned down an offer of full-time work.”
Many Christian mothers have discovered that if they are able to reduce the time they spend doing secular work, all in the family benefit. “When I stopped working secularly, it seemed that the family began to function much more smoothly,” explains Cristina, mentioned earlier. “I had time to talk to my children and to help my husband in many practical ways. I began to enjoy teaching my girls, seeing them learn and progress.” One particular incident stands out in Cristina’s mind. “My eldest child first learned to walk at a child-care center,” she recalls, “but I taught my second child to walk at home. She took her first steps and fell right into my arms. That moment brought me so much satisfaction!”
Another factor to consider is that the economic sacrifices involved in reducing a mother’s secular work may be less than expected. “The expenses of child care and transportation actually ate up a considerable part of my salary,” explains Cristina. “When we carefully analyzed our situation, we realized that my job was not bringing that much extra money into the home.”
After taking stock of their situation, some couples decide that the advantages of having the wife care full-time for the family outweigh any monetary sacrifice that must be made. “I am delighted that my wife is able to stay at home to care for our two young children,” says Cristina’s husband, Paul. “It was much more stressful for both of us when my wife was working outside the home.” What effect has this decision had on the couple’s two girls? “Not only do they feel more secure,” says Paul, “but they are being shielded to a large extent from bad influences during their early years.” Why does this couple feel that it is so important for them to spend as much time as possible with their daughters? Paul answers: “I am convinced that if we parents don’t write on our children’s hearts, so to speak, someone else will.”
Clearly, each couple have to analyze their own situation, and nobody should criticize the decisions that others may make. (Romans 14:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:11) Nevertheless, it is worth considering the many benefits the family derives when a mother does not take on full-time employment. Summing up her feelings on this matter, Teresa, quoted earlier, says: “Nothing brings more fulfillment than spending as much time as possible caring for and teaching your own children.”—Psalm 127:3.
[Picture on page 31]
Christian mothers share in the vital work of training their children