Mom Thinking About Going Back to Work

little girl kissing mom's cheek
Should I go back to work while I have young kids?

I was offered an opportunity to return to the workplace. The challenge is exciting, and a second income would really help me and my husband. At the same time, I get stressed out thinking about juggling a job and my family’s busy schedule. My plate is already full just being a stay-at-home mom! How can I make this decision?



Well done for making the time to think through your options before diving back into the workplace. It’s a big decision, and there’s not one “right” choice for every mom in your situation.

However, if you’re familiar with the ministry of Focus on the Family, you know that we believe in the value of children; it’s one of our guiding philosophies. We believe children are a heritage from God and a blessing from His hand. Because of that, parents are accountable to God for raising, shaping, and preparing their children for a life of service to His Kingdom and to humanity.

With that in mind, the short answer to your question is that we believe it’s best for a mother to remain at home if she can — especially while her children are young.

No one can take a mama’s place in the lives of her little ones, and we know your energy is limited. (We’d never say that you’re just a stay-at-home mom!) To that end, we encourage you to do everything in your power to focus on home and your children — at least until your kids are old enough to handle an increasing amount of independence.

But for some moms (maybe even you), the question likely goes deeper. Stick with us while we explore a few topics:

The important role of a mother

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. Moms who choose to devote themselves to their kids are often made to feel as if they’re less valuable than career-focused mothers.

But consider this thought from author Linda Weber:

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 the opposite of God’s design for motherhood and the value of stay-at-home moms. Mother and author Jill Savage writes,

Rose Kennedy said, “I looked on child rearing not only as a work of love and duty but as a profession that demanded the best that I could bring to it.” Like Rose, I have found that indeed motherhood is a profession, and it certainly deserves the best I can bring to it.

What happens at home is central to a child’s ability to function throughout his life. Home is where bonding takes place and a child learns to attach to relationships. When a child can attach, that means they learn to trust people. Learning to trust is essential for having healthy relationships throughout life.

Similarly, Anna Arnold comments on 1 Peter 4:10, which says, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (emphasis added):

The gift a stay-at-home mom has to steward is time and energy; time and energy to keep her hand on the moral input her children are receiving, to set standards of behavior, to love, to invest in relationship, to make a home.

We’re not suggesting that you doubt the value of your role as a mom. At the same time, we know that harmful ideas have a way of sneaking into the subconscious. We want to put to rest any question about the God-honoring, societal, community, and economic value of a mom.

What’s your motive for going back to work?

You mentioned that a second income would be helpful to your family, but we don’t get the sense that it’s critical. So we’re going to camp on that assumption for a minute. (If we misunderstood and you must help with household expenses, check out our Q&A on encouragement for mothers who have to work outside the home.)

We know there are moms who desperately want to be home with their kids, but their financial needs force them into the workplace. The single mom. The mom whose husband is disabled. The mom whose husband is unemployed or underemployed. These situations are more painful examples of living in a broken world.

But there also are women who truly have a choice about whether to pursue a career in some capacity. They can stay home — even if it means modifying their budget and lifestyle. And for those mothers, we want to help them get to the heart of their motive. Has work become an identity that craves earthly applause? Have financial comfort and the increasing pull of comparison traps distorted what true need is?

At a practical level, you might ask yourself, Does my family really need a second income? “Money matters,” writes Candace Watters. “But money is not most important.”

I have seen many couples step out in faith after the birth of a child so Mom could stay home to care for their baby. Some figured out ways to live on less. Some saw husbands get promotions. Some found part-time and flexible work from home. Some saw practical needs met through friends and relatives. Whatever their unique circumstances, all of them witnessed God’s faithfulness as they stepped out in faith and trusted him — not the economy — to meet their needs. …

This is not a call to irresponsible living — of throwing out budgets and living lavishly on credit card debt. Rather, it is a challenge to resist an unbelieving mindset that knows nothing of the faithful provision of a loving heavenly Father. He created man and woman, blessed us with the creative power to procreate, and gave us the responsibility of nurturing those newborns and bringing them up in the fear of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).

When moms take a deeper look at their motives, Abigail Dodds suggests that the question women need to ask themselves is this: “Am I faithfully obeying God as his child by meeting the genuine needs of others, or am I pursuing self-actualization, self-fulfillment, or selfish ambition apart from him?”

If the potential extra money from going back to work is not essential, we encourage you to turn down the offer (for now) so you can focus on raising your children and pointing them to Jesus. We’re not saying you should never go back to work. But “for now” is an important idea to explore.

You don’t have to do everything right now

What guided your decision to leave your job and stay home with your kids in the first place? We feel safe in saying that one factor likely was that you realized your children would need your presence. Your babies and toddlers are entirely dependent on your care for their every need. That “busy schedule” you described is real!

However, as you and your kids move through stages of motherhood and child development, the day will come when they’re older and gaining independence. Shifting back to the workforce might make more sense in that season — whether you work outside your home or take on remote work.

Author Carolyn McCulley powerfully describes this journey as the “full arc of a lifetime.”

In his parables, Jesus repeatedly calls his followers to shrewdly invest what they have received. By giving illustrations where people receive different amounts, he makes it clear that this distribution is not even.

The amounts are not important. Stewardship is. Jesus requires a hearty effort of his followers to invest those gifts and see them multiplied for his glory.

Therefore, women are to look at all they have received — the gifts, talents, time, opportunities, relationships, and capacities — and determine how and when to invest them across the full arc of a lifetime. (Whether It’s at Home or at the Office, Does It Matter Where Women Work?)

Right now, your time, relationships, and capacities may point to God asking you to embrace your role as a stay-at-home mom. And down the road, He may provide an even better career opportunity that won’t overwhelm your family’s schedule.

Keep an open mind. If you really do need a second income, or if you believe that God is calling you back to the workplace for a specific purpose, don’t assume that your only two choices are staying home or working a full-time job.

So, how do you decide? We suggest using a criteria-based decision model.

How to decide what’s best for your family

A decision matrix is a tool to help you evaluate a set of choices against a set of criteria. The 10 steps below are adapted from the Complete Guide to Faith-Based Family Finances by Ron Blue and Jeremy White. (You likely can find a copy through online retailers or your local bookstore.)

The steps will help you take an objective look at your needs, goals, and desires. Then, you’ll apply those observations to create a plan for the best use your time, energy, and skills.

Step 1: Pray

The most important thing you can do is stay close to God and follow His plan for your life in this (and every!) season. The Bible says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach” (James 1:5).

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 difficult choices.

Step 2: Define your decision

Sit down with your husband and talk about the actual decision you need to make. For a wife considering a career or part-time job, the decision might be something like, I need to choose the best way to spend my time, my talents, and my energy.

This wording takes the focus off the immediate issue (To work or not to work?) and places it on the deeper issues that need to inform your choice.

Step 3: Clarify your objectives

Objectives will be different for each individual and couple, of course. But think about the things you want to maximize and minimize — what you want to achieve. For example:

  • Maximize time with husband and children.
  • Maximize God-given skills and talents.
  • Maximize income.
  • Minimize commute time.
  • Minimize costs (such as childcare).
  • Minimize stress.

Step 4: Prioritize your objectives

Give each objective you listed in Step 3 a number value from 1 to 10 — with 10 being a non-negotiable priority and 1 being an objective you can live without.

Step 5: Identify your alternatives

Write down all options, no matter how unappealing they may first seem. Decisions like this rarely involve a choice between right and wrong. Instead, they’re a matter of picking the best alternative on a scale between almost right and probably wrong.

Keep in mind that if using your professional skills and supplementing your family’s income are important factors to you, you don’t necessarily have to take a full-time position in an office. Many employees choose alternatives that give them greater flexibility — including freelancing, job sharing, telecommuting, or working variable hours.

So in your case, your alternatives (options) might include:

  • Staying at home with your children.
  • Working in a full-time career outside the home.
  • Working part-time outside the home.
  • Working part-time or full-time from home.

Step 6: Evaluate your alternatives

Give each alternative you listed in Step 5 a number value from 1 to 10 — with 10 being the highest. The goal is to weigh how well each alternative fulfills your objectives and priorities from Step 3.

Step 7: Make a preliminary decision

Draw or create a table with rows and columns.

  • For each row down the side, write the objectives you identified in Step 3.
  • At the top of each column, write the alternatives you identified in Step 5.

Multiply the value you assigned to each alternative (column) by the value you assigned to each objective (row). Write the total in each box of the table.

Add the total points for each column (each alternative). Carefully consider the alternative that scores the highest as being the best almost-right option. But don’t feel locked into that choice.

example of decision-making matrix for mom going back to work

Step 8: Assess the risk

Ask yourselves what could go wrong. Your family’s well-being is at stake, so taking a second look is wise. Consider asking your pastor and other trusted friends for their perspectives.

Step 9: Make the final decision

Whatever you decide, it’s important that you and your husband talk about this opportunity together. If you do return to work, everyone must be prepared to take a more active role in managing the household.

Step 10: Test the decision

In Faith-Based Family Finances, Ron Blue recommends five biblical tests to consider when making a big decision like the one you face. He writes:

  • Promise test: Does your decision line up with the promises contained in God’s Word? Or does it contradict any biblical principles or promises?
  • Partner test: Two heads are better than one. If you’re married, then you should ask your spouse about your decision. If you made the decision together with your spouse or if you’re not married, find another friend, person you respect, or family member to review your decision-making process.
  • Purpose test: Is your decision aligned with God’s purpose for your life? for the lives of others?
  • Preference test: Perhaps your decision isn’t specifically addressed in Scripture. If so, does it align with your desires? Are those desires or preferences God-inspired?
  • Peace test: Do you experience the peace of God with this decision?

Remember: The best-for-your-family decision you make now isn’t set in stone. It can change from season to season as your circumstances shift.

You’re not alone

We’re here for you!

If you’d like to share more of your story or want help applying the thoughts we shared to your personal situation, 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 practical suggestions. They can also point you to advisors and counselors who specialize in helping families with financial issues.

In the meantime, we invite you to dig into the recommended resources and referrals below.

You May Also Like