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.
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.