I looked at the silent circle of women seated in the coffee shop around me. We had been laughing together before I asked the question that changed the atmosphere of the group. "Do you know how to balance life as Christian women who want to prioritize family, but who also work for income?" our surface conversation immediately dove into deeper, pensive waters.
A woman named Angie broke the silence. "My family comes first, but I want to do a good job at work, too. Jack's hours got cut, so my salary is the only way we're making it, but I don't know how to juggle it all."
The struggle to juggle
I have conducted many focus groups like that one, talking to Christian women at every stage of life who have two things in common: They work for income either part time or full time, and they deeply need help and support.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, moms with school-age children working for income rose from 47 percent in 1975 to 76 percent today — almost three-fourths of them full time. Even among those with children ages 5 and younger, two out of three are in the workforce. Some are working out of a desire to use their gifts in the marketplace, others out of financial necessity.
Whatever the reason, the same work-life questions are shared by 25 million American moms with kids under age 18. And because professional life inevitably impacts family life, work-life answers are necessary.
Whether Christian women hold office jobs, are starting home-based businesses or wait tables, their needs are similar. They have questions, desire support and long to talk about work-home issues. And their concerns always come back to family. They ask: How do I give my husband what he needs when I'm tired or preoccupied? Am I a bad mom for not doing all the volunteer activities at school? How do I handle the awkwardness of earning more than my husband? How do I balance it all?
Seek a support group
These questions may not have an answer that works for all women, but individuals can help each other explore possible solutions. To do this, they may find a community of other working moms by joining short Bible study classes or other small groups. Or fellowship and counsel can be as simple as coordinating lunches with other Christians at work. Although there's no universal solution for finding the right group, it's vital for busy women to be intentional about finding support — whether that means informally sharing coffee and life with other working women or hiring a college student to watch the kids two afternoons a week. A first step might be to find a prayer partner. Prayer is a lot richer when there is a mechanism to share prayer requests with one another.
Working women also have to prioritize. Learning how to do only what matters in God's eyes, rather than trying to do it all, is absolutely vital. The Proverbs 31 woman is portrayed as a woman who fears the Lord and consequently thrives in every area of her life: marriage, children, activities and work. This excellent model in Scripture should encourage us that God has a way for us to thrive as well.