Money, babies, work and God

One of the things that’s been on my heart for a long time is God’s plan for my life as a mother. Specifically: do I work or do I stay home?

A lot of women have crazy strong opinions about this–stay at home moms are getting the easy life. Working moms are abandoning their kids. Stay at home moms are in a bubble, out of touch with reality, and working moms are foolishly letting someone else raise their kids.

I don’t think any of these things. I think that every woman is different, uniquely designed by God, and uniquely equipped for a life that is anything but cookie-cutter. And God calls some of us to work outside the home, some to stay home–but calls all of us to follow Jesus through whatever life path he’s designed, overflowing with the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against these things there is no law. You can have those qualities as a CEO, as a cleaning woman, as a mom–single or married–that’s the point. The heart. Each of our lives will look different, and we are called by Jesus himself not to judge. So there’s my preface–this post isn’t about one option being better than another.

So our situation–it’s unique. Here’s the skinny: my husband is starting the 4th year of his PhD program this fall. He is officially “ABD” (“all but dissertation”) and is a “PhD candiate” instead of “student.” He has at least two years left, but possibly three, depending on how long his dissertation takes to write. He has a fellowship, so we’re not paying for his schooling, but his stipend isn’t enough for us to live on 100%–especially if we have to pay for insurance for me and little Alice out-of-pocket.

When Alice is born in October, I’ll have been working full time for 8 years, ever since I graduated from college. I always assumed that if I had kids–and especially if I had them while my husband was still in school–I’d be a working mom. Women I greatly admire–like Traci, our pastor’s wife, mother of 2 adorable girls–have done this, with great success. I enjoy getting out of the house, I’m good at my jobs, I’m motivated and have been very blessed financially through my employers. Why hop off the gravy train?

Actually, a year ago the thought of staying home–brought up by my husband–made me stinkin’ mad. It got me riled up. I couldn’t even talk about the options rationally. My face would get hot, and I just wanted to shout. I don’t usually want to shout, so this was a big red flag: something was up. Something with deep roots.

I think there are two reasons for these strong, strong emotions–one, I’m good at work. I’ve always succeeded at my jobs, pleased my bosses, and brought home the bacon. The thought that this skill and ability that I had invested so much time and energy in would be ‘tossed away’ felt like a threat to my identity and my worth. Second, being the one (primarily) bringing home the bacon for so many years as my husband has pursued his schooling (the bacon is down the road though!), I feel a certain ownership over our savings. Like that money is mine–I’ve really worked for it, sometimes with literally sweat and tears. The thought of using those savings to allow me to stay at home for however many years the PhD would take (and depleting so much of it in the process) was threatening as well. I’m a saver, as you may remember. And I don’t like to spend what I’ve saved–it feels wrong. It feels scary. It feels like an invalidation of the very reason I was saving. In a way, I save to save. Not for this or that specifically (though a future house has been in the back of my mind), but for the security it gives me.

Anyway, I knew my anger wasn’t coming from a good place in my heart. So I prayed–and not with a good attitude either! “Well God,” I sighed. “If you want to change my heart about these savings, you’d better do it, because I’m certainly not going to change! This is how I feel and that’s just that!”

I may have even muttered a “good luck with that!” heavenly-wards.

And God laughed, I think. “Good luck with that?” He chuckled. “I don’t need luck. I have sovereign power.”

Thankfully God doesn’t just swing his power around like a battleaxe. He’s . . . gentle.

And gently, tenderly, slowly, without any effort on my part, he changed my heart. So that a year later, when I found I was pregnant, I was completely open to the idea of being a stay-at-home mom. I didn’t read any self help books. I didn’t pray regularly about my issue. I didn’t seek tons of advice and chip away at my own heart in an effort to change it in 5 steps, or 10 steps, or 20. I just issued a snarky challenge for God to change my heart, and . . . well, He did.

I love that about God. He has a sense of humor. A tender way with a woman’s heart. A way or relinquishing the death-grip we can have over our money, our possessions, our time, our identity as we see it.

Because really? It’s his money. I’m his daughter. Alice is his baby. The decision is up to him, and I know in the depths of my soul that his decision will be the absolute best one.

After relinquishing my emotional death-grip on my job and our money, I’ve been gently moved back towards the idea of working. I had a meeting with my boss when I was about 4 months pregnant that I alluded to briefly before–and it was better than anything I could have imagined. I mean, I had prayed for God to make his heart generous towards me, but his offer so far surpassed the list I had made of my potential requests that I just had to laugh. I’ll break it down for you: out of the blue (not knowing any of my requests before this started) he said that I could simply bring Alice to work, and have her here at the office. I could set up a little play area for her and have her with me the whole time. He asked how much maternity leave I wanted–I said: 3 months? He added it would be paid time off. That the company will cover my baby’s insurance. That I still qualify for 100% of the year-end bonus despite my pending absence. When I come back, I can work 9-2 in the office and the rest of the day from home. I can work from home all day on Fridays. He will provide a laptop and printer to make this easier. And there’s more (you wouldn’t even believe it)–but those are the basics.

Too good to be true, right?

His only request from me: I’m in charge of finding a good temp and training him/her. And my commitment to him: that if I decide that I want to quit after coming back, I will wait to leave until finding a replacement–I won’t leave him in the lurch.

No problem!

An embarrassment of riches. That’s what it is.

So while I’ve committed to going back and feel pretty sure the arrangement can work out at least until little Alice is walking around, I’m still not sure if I’m going to work until my husband’s PhD is complete. We’ll see! And I feel fine about that. The decision doesn’t have to be made until my heart is moved by my Father in heaven.

The point of this story is that God has opened my heart to both options–working outside the home or staying home–, and weaned away my anger. You can be sure I’ll be listening closely to the Spirit.

Also, I am praying boldly. Praying that there would be a miraculous infusion of money that will allow me to both quit my job and leave our savings untouched. He may not do that . . . but He could. He’s able. So why not ask? I love the line from that hymn: “Ponder anew what the Almighty can do if with His love He defend thee.”

I’m pondering anew what He can do. He’s almighty. He can do anything he wants, and he has so often made our cups overflow. I leave it in his good hands.

27 thoughts on “Money, babies, work and God

    1. Layla

      P.S. and I LOVE how you never fail to point out and acknowledge and give the glory to God for these great things that happen! Hugs!

      Reply
  1. Steve

    this made me smile Jenna. So cool to see God doing what only God can do. I love the way God directs so often in one direction without necessarily the intent of fulfilling the assumed outcome. He just wants more of our hearts, and will do what He must for us to trust. Thanks for sharing this. It’s a joy to see God’s work, and you are so gifted in your writing and eloquent in your vulnerability that it is easy to enter in and experience God’s work vicariously. Thanks!!

    Reply
  2. kelsey

    thank you so much for sharing this jenna! it’s amazing to hear how god is working in your life and the blessings he provides. i’m so happy to hear your employer is giving your options and allowing you to pursue a career and be a mother at the same time. :)

    Reply
  3. Rowenna

    Jenna, this was such an awesome post. And you made me, again, for about the bazillionth time in the past few months, ridiculously grateful for what God has provided in my life, too, as the hubs and I prepare for baby #1. He is truly, truly amazing (and has a great sense of humor, you’re right!). Hoping and praying for all the best for you and the family!

    Reply
  4. Anita

    This is such a faith builder… my current issues are very different from yours, but the issue of trusting God to want his best for each of his children rings true. And you are so right that it looks different for every one of us. Amazing.

    Reply
  5. queenie

    Crying. Again. Why does what you write so often bring me to tears?! In a good way, of course. Thanks Jenna – love your stories. Love to you! xoxoxo

    Reply
  6. Jenny @ Words On Wendhurst

    I love that phrase: an embarrassment of riches. Those are exactly the words I’ve struggled to find for so long. I love reading stories about how God changes our hearts gently and blesses us so abundantly – like out of this world blessings. :-) And my compliments to you for having a heart tender enough to change. That takes a special person. :-)

    Reply
  7. Suzie

    What a lovely, insightful post Jenna. I agree with you in that every woman is different and each of us works things out the best we can. Every situation is different. Your boss is awesomely generous. I’m glad you have options and God will lead you to the one best suited for you.

    Reply
  8. giselle

    Jenna, that’s amazing!! I hope you realize what a wonderful boss you have because very few people have that kind of flexibility. Yeah!

    Reply
  9. Yasmina

    Jenna, cada persona tiene una situación personal y una vsión de las cosas que le proporciona la experiencia vital que ha vivido. En mi opinión, si te has esforzado a conciencia por tu carrera profesional y has podido compaginarlo con el resto de aspectos de tu vida, ¿por qué renunciar a ello? Simplemente, es reordenar tu agenda / horario.
    Con respecto al buen rollo de tu jefe, siempre he pensado que lo que uno siembra, tarde o temprano se te devuelve. Me alegro de que todo se haya solucionado de forma positiva.
    Alice te dará una nueva perspectiva a tu existencia, como madre, mujer, esposa, etc. No renuncies nunca a tus sueños o aspiraciones porque es un ejemplo a seguir en el futuro por tu hija, una actitud de la que estará orgullosa como hija y como mujer.

    Un abrazo muy fuerte para los 3!

    Reply
    1. Jenna Post author

      Gracias Yasmina–así lo estoy mirando. Cada persona tiene su situación, y quiero mantenerme abierta a lo que sea mejor para nosotros (que en este momento, no sé lo que será . . . pero en algún momento confío en que tendremos claro lo que es).

      Reply
  10. Laura

    Awesome, Jenna… so encouraging to read and a helpful reminder as we’re always taking things a day and a season at a time here too… and you’re so right. God provides perfectly. Needed that reminder :)

    Reply
  11. Lindsy

    Each person is so different – your personality, your desires, and your calling! I worked for the first 6 months of Jude’s life. I was the Development Director for a local non-profit and LOVED my job. LOVED IT. In my right mind, I couldn’t work full-time, so I tried the whole work-at-home thing. Which worked for awhile until Jude started being awake more and his hour of napping meant I needed to decide between work and showering. God did some work in my heart and I ended up quitting my job and staying home. I quit the exact week I (surprise) got pregnant with Isaac (before I knew I was pregnant). God has blessed this decision and my husband has more than made up for my income with his commissions this year!

    All that to say – God will make clear what is right for your family. Be open to that idea changing and looking different than what you imagined. And don’t worry about the money. Look at the birds and the lilies, right? :-) I know… easy to say.

    Reply
    1. Jenna Post author

      Yeah, I’m definitely thinking about that time down the road when Alice is moving around, even walking, and I don’t know if I can or will want to both work and watch her at the same time. Thankfully, I don’t have to make that decision now (phew!). =) I’ve been blessed by reading your story on your blog, by the way–and thanks for the encouragement to not worry about $. =)

      Reply
  12. Lindsy

    P.S. I do believe that being a stay-at-home-mom, you can kind of feel like you are in a bubble… but please tell me where is this “easy life” you speak of?!?!

    Reply
  13. Sara

    Wow- that is awesome about your job! God is GOOD! He really does know what we need more than we do- so who knows what your future holds but he will provide!

    Reply
  14. Veronica

    WOW! That is amazing but should we be surprised? Not at all! Like you said, God is sovereign and can do anything and I’m just so happy for you that he has given you such a blessing here. Truly amazing. God is good.

    Reply
  15. Kate

    Jenna. This is incredible news! God IS good. I have your present ready to send and now you need it more than ever. My parent-infant classes are about a parenting approach based on Magda Gerber and Maria Montessori’s work and you might want to have a look at RIE.org. The reason this will be important now is that babies raised with this philosophy are quite content to be alone and entertaining themselves. I’m happy to talk to you about it if you’d like more info. I WILL get you the books “Your Self Confident Baby” and “Dear Parent: Caring for Infants with Respect.”

    Reply
    1. Jenna Post author

      Wow, thank you Kate! I’m already looking forward to reading them. Up until now most of my reading and our focus has been on the birth, breastfeeding and such, so I’m excited to start learning about all the stuff that lies beyond those first steps.

      Reply
  16. Joanne

    I’m SOOO glad it all worked out!! Your boss was insanely generous! I just know that you’ll follow your heart and end up doing what is right for your family and for little Alice.

    Reply
  17. Kay

    So wonderful to hear how the Lord takes care of our needs! I don’t know how many times I grudgingly obeyed God, yet He still honored my obedience by lavishing love. He is always looking at our hearts, isn’t He? Your boss’ generosity is a token of God’s richness for you and your family! Lovely post, Jenna!

    Reply

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