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Encouragement for Mothers Who Have to Work Outside the Home

Smiling mom and daughter rub noses while son plays next to them.
Do you have any encouragement for moms who have no choice but to take a job outside the home?

I know that Focus on the Family affirms stay-at-home moms in their role. But what about someone like me? My husband is a hard-working, skilled contractor, but the jobs aren’t steady and don’t offer health benefits, so I need to earn money, too. And what about the mother whose husband is disabled and she has to help pay household bills? What about single moms? We know that our babies and young kids need us in person to nurture their development and build strong attachments — and we feel guilty when we’re not with them.



You’re exactly right: Every mother’s story is unique.

Her early years and whether her mom worked outside the home. Her pursuit of education and a career. Her dreams of marriage and what life would look like when children came along. Her present reality. Whether she can stay with her kids all day or needs a job outside her home because of financial necessity.

Every story is unique because every mom is unique. We’re glad to walk with you during this season and hope the thoughts we share here will be helpful.

There’s a difference between wanting to work outside the home and having to

For mothers who have a choice when it comes to working outside the home, author Linda Weber writes,

The real issue is that moms today live in a world that believes a career defines them, makes them a whole person, and that without such an occupation, women aren’t using their brains or playing a meaningful role in our world.

That sentiment — that motherhood alone is not a worthy calling and pursuit — is what concerns us.

We work hard to affirm stay-at-home moms because our culture tends to tear them down. In subtle and not-so-subtle ways, the media, the educational establishment, the corporate world, and the radical feminist movement belittle these women. These moms are made to feel as if they’re less valuable because they choose to devote themselves to their kids.

We want to counteract this destructive trend. We want to help women get to the heart of their motive to work outside the home. Is it a true need — such as the circumstances you described? Or, has work become an identity that craves earthly applause? Have financial comfort or the increasing pull of comparison traps distorted their view of true need?

Our hearts ache for the moms who desperately want to be home with their kids, yet their financial needs force them into the workplace. These situations are more painful examples of living in a broken world. But God sees you. Just as He sees every single mom. Every mom whose husband is disabled. Every mom whose husband is enduring unemployment or underemployment. Every mom who’s carrying a larger piece of the financial responsibility for her family than she wants.

We see you, too. And we’re committed to encouraging and helping moms like you however we can.

Encouragement and practical tips for working moms

As you process your emotions and navigate the practical realities of working outside your home when you’d rather not, we urge you to keep several things in mind.

Stay close to God

Do you know the one true God who created you and authored every day of your life? He has always known and loved you. And through a personal relationship with His son, Jesus, you can have peace — regardless of the trials and sorrows on this earth.

The most important thing you can do is seek God and follow His plan for your life in this season. God is faithful and will give you His peace and strength in every hard thing.

Ask Him to give you joy and hope. Thank Him for the talents, skills, and abilities He’s given you to help you earn a living. Praise God for the opportunity to share His love and truth with your coworkers. Pray that He’ll show you how He is guiding and guarding your children when they’re in someone else’s care. Look for ways you can celebrate as a family how the Lord provides for your needs.

Avoid binary thinking

People tend to see issues as black and white, either this or this. That thought process is called binary thinking, and it can work in fields like biology and engineering. But it doesn’t work for all of life.

If we look at everything in an either/or way, we can miss the truth — because truth is often found in middle ground, where both this and this have a place. In other words, you can work and be the mom your kids need.

Remember that God gave your kids to you

Your situation isn’t perfect, we know. In fact, it might feel downright miserable. Do your best to rest in the truth that God designed every nuance of who you are, and He knows every need of your heart and home.

He knew that you’d need to work right now — and at the same time, He knew that your kids would need the perspective, life, and love that only you can offer. God intentionally made you to be the mom that your kids would need. Trust Him to guide you.

Let go of false guilt

Feelings of guilt and the fear that we’re not doing enough for our kids can press in hard. When that happens, remember this common acronym of FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real.

The truth is that you are your child’s primary source of nurturing and learning — even if you’re not with them all the time — and you can take steps to help them build a healthy attachment style.

How? When you’re with your children, love them, be dependable, and be responsive. Eat dinner together as often as possible. Pray together, and teach them to pray. Raise them to know their worth and identity in Christ. And have fun!

Then, when you must leave them in the care of teachers, grandparents, neighbors, daycares, nannies, or other trusted caregivers, be confident that God can use those interactions to nourish and encourage your little ones. Kids can never have too many wise role models.

Keep in mind that work isn’t bad

God created us to work. Sin marred the perfection of work as God intended. Still, because of Jesus, our labor has deep significance:

Work is anything meaningful we do that God equips us to do and can be done for His glory, for the help of our neighbor, and as part of the foreshadowing of His kingdom. (What Does the Bible Say About Work?)

Christ came to redeem all things, and that includes the situations where moms must work away from their children. Consider these truths from author Abigail Dodds:

Our faithfulness [in any kind of work] first requires a kind of death. … Yet death leads to life — life in Christ, through him, and for him. What exactly that death looks like will vary from person to person, but in every case, it will be a gospel act, a spectacle of crucifixion with Christ.

For a single mom who must earn an income, prioritizing Christ and the home may mean doing what it takes to provide for her kids’ needs and spending herself at work, then at home, at great cost to herself — to the glory of God and for the good of her children. …

For the woman whose husband is facing long-term unemployment or disability, it may mean becoming the breadwinner or caretaker, shouldering a larger portion of responsibility than she had perhaps desired.

For a mom whose children are older and gaining independence, it may mean a shift in the type of work she does, bravely considering the options and doing things she hasn’t done in a long time, or trying something brand new. (Every Woman’s Call to Work)

Keep your priorities straight

Remember that your calling is first to God, then to your family, and finally to your job. Whatever stage of motherhood you’re in, look for times you can connect with your kids.

For example, does your work schedule require you to be away from home before or after the school day — when your kids might need you most? Talk with your supervisor about possibly changing your hours. Would your employer let you do some or all of your work from home? If necessary, consider switching to a company that supports working moms through flexible arrangements and other family-centered policies.

Prioritize, organize, and delegate

“A little humor, a little innovation, a little creativity and, frankly, learning the skill of ‘letting it go …’ is a big part of being a happier, more realistic, and peaceful mom,” says Michelle LaRowe, author of Working Mom’s 411. (You may be able to find a copy of the book through online retailers or your local bookstore.)

You might be tempted to overcompensate in other areas for not being with your kids more (such as trying to cook every meal from scratch). However, that will only wear you out. Instead, brainstorm what matters most and how to handle those objectives. Decide key areas to organize. Create a routine for transition times. Develop long-range planning systems for laundry, housecleaning, and cooking.

And remember: You’re not responsible for doing it all! What can your older kids take on? Is your local church youth group scheduling yard clean-ups? Does your young neighbor love dogs — would they be thrilled to walk yours? When outsourcing makes sense, don’t turn it down!

Don’t go it alone

Balancing the care of your family when you also must work for income isn’t easy. Be intentional to reach out for help and welcome the support of others:

Find a community of other working moms by joining short Bible study classes or other small groups. … 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.

We’re here for you, too. If you’d like to share more of your story, call Focus on the Family’s Counseling department at 1-855-771-HELP (4357) for a free over-the-phone consultation. Our licensed or pastoral counselors would be honored to listen to you, pray with you, and offer biblical wisdom. (We also invite you to dig into the recommended resources and referrals below.)

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