Recently, there has been another dust-up about being a working mother vs. a “stay-at-home” mother (I use quotations because we all know that mothers rarely get to stay at home much) in the Christian blogosphere.

It started because John Piper (to give full disclosure, not a preacher that I listen to or appreciate) did a short talk on the importance of women remaining “in the home”. Then, a well-known writer and blogger, Matthew Paul Turner wrote a rather snarky but fantastic response. Since then, there have been many bloggers passionately writing their opinions about the question “Is it unbiblical for women to work outside the home?” in various levels of scholarship and opinions.

I have watched with a keen eye, particularly since I recently wrote this post about the the lack of respect that women receive in evangelical churches as leadership.

So here is my take.

I have never not considered having a career. I was raised in western Canada in the 80s and 90s. We all went to school with the full intent of attending university. My mother worked part-time for most of my childhood (not all) and eventually full-time when we were in high school. Also, I did not suffer from a lack of training in homemaking – both of my parents taught me how to do laundry, how to balance a cheque book, how to manage money, how to wash floor, make supper, cook a turkey dinner, clean a toilet and generally run a household. I say both of my parents on purpose – my father is the consummate laundry man but no one can iron a shirt like my mother. My mum taught me much of what I know about money but my dad paid the bills. It was a partnership between them to make sure I knew how to be a responsible adult.

I went to university and embarked on a career in financial services marketing. I was not even aware, to be honest, that there was a debate about whether or not women should be “working outside the home” which now sounds incredibly beautiful. I just worked. I had a job I liked, we managed our home and all was well. My husband was even a pastor at the time. Sometimes I felt some pressure from others to be more available for the “daytime ladies activities” because many churches like to schedule their ladies’ Bible studies for Tuesday mornings but overall, I didn’t feel much pressure or inclination to change the way things were for us.

Our lives have shifted over the years. Brian was a full time student again for a while so I worked and supported us both. Then I had a year of maternity leave for both of my children. Between Anne and Joseph, I worked full time again while Brian stayed home with our daughter full time and went to school.  After Joseph, I wanted to be home with them full time and made the changes necessary to do so, even quitting my job. Eventually I added two days a week at a non-profit that I am passionate about but I am home most of my weeks, 5 days out of 7 and my husband is the primary bread-winner.

I have heard all of the scriptures, I have read all of the translations, I have read all of the position papers and the blogs. I have been yelled at and high-fived over my choices.

I am now a working mother again. And there are those that think I am in sin for doing so. 

But here’s the thing: this is legalism, plain and simple. 

Anytime that I try to make my interpretation of scripture or my personal experiences and revelations a rule, I impose legalism on others.

I am not far from God, nor am I deluded. I am not a man-hater, nor is my husband an effeminate doormat. I am a woman that deeply loves and follow Jesus. My husband is a theologian and, also, deeply loves and follows God. We have looked at the same scriptures they are looking at and have settled that we feel very differently than some others do.

I appreciate that some women feel differently. They are welcome to do so.

I simply ask for the same respect for my own decisions. (Too much to ask?) As a woman that loves God and loves her husband and family, I see that I am able to love them well, make a good home here in partnership with my husband and yet still work outside the home. 

(Ultimately, I take issue with the phrase “biblical womanhood” overall. And that’s a whole other post.)

And I also take issue with the fact that we are not encouraged to seek God on this issue. When I tweeted (don’t you hate that word?) my solution for the issueHow about this solution for the working mum vs. stay at home debate? You do what you feel lead by God to do and I’ll do the same. Done.  I was sarcastically asked if that meant I was going to completely ignore scripture.

Of course not. But I read Scripture and interpret it very differently than some. So then it does come down to this: are you open to Jesus? Are you open, in your heart of hearts, to having him speak into your life? That is not something to be lightly or playfully dismissed in my opinion. Either you know him and his voice or not. For some people that might mean working. For others, it might mean being home full time.  

But ultimately, if we believe that Christianity is about a relationship, not a religion, than we have to give credence to people hearing the voice of God and following it for themselves.

And that is some biblical truth for you, free of charge.

So here is something else: Do you believe that God speaks today? Do you believe that you can be actively lead? If so, then encourage women to seek God on these things for themselves. And don’t assume that because you’ve heard from God for your own life that it means it’s a Rule for All Women to Follow.

Above all else, the thing I struggle with the most in this conversation is the flat-out judgment.  Even if you disagree with me – vehemently, is there a way to disagree in love? Is there a way to disagree without imposing guilt and shame and hurt in the heart of another?

I will prepare my children equally for life – my son and my daughter. I will tell them both that they are smart. I will encourage both of them to pursue the life that they feel called towards – if that involves university or auto mechanic school or being a support to their spouse’s career or whatnot. I will teach them both how to keep a home and balance a cheque book. I will teach them how to respect people and their choices, regardless of sex or religion. I don’t mark many differences in how I raise my son vs. how I raise my daughter. Because ultimately, I want to raise them to be free to follow Jesus wherever he leads, whether it’s a boardroom for my daughter or a kitchen for my son. There is no shame in either path. There is only shame in knowing that you were created to do or be something and then not having the courage to pursue it with abandon.

 So I work outside the home. I refuse to feel guilty for it. I am a woman that loves God deeply and loves her family wildly. Those two things are not opposed so I wish that some would stop trying to make them be so.

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  • Joy

    I love this, Sarah, and it is so encouraging to me today!!! Thank you!

    I recently read a post from a stay-at-home mom on Facebook saying that “I can see why some moms choose to work. It’s much easier than staying home…” I took great offense at that comment, and I am still struggling with it. I work very hard wherever I am, and I don’t like this debate at all. I feel like it is so closed-minded. I don’t pretend that a stay-at-home mom’s job isn’t difficult, but I also don’t want to be told that my choice to work means that I don’t care about my daughter or that I don’t worry about her and pray for her every second that I am working. Not to mention, I still have to come home and do all the housework in the evenings after a full, difficult day of work.

    There are pros and cons to both sides of the argument, and like you said, it comes down to what you hear the Lord telling you do to in your life and according to your calling. Thank you for what you wrote…I needed to hear it tonight!

    • I’m so glad it blessed you, Joy. i think that’s part of the reason I wrote it – we all have enough guilt and pressure as parents without feeling the judgment of others on our decisions constantly. You’re a good mother, friend.

  • I love this! (I know.. you’re shocked!)

    I had a very similar upbringing and was surprised that this was such a heated argument as well. I really enjoyed your take on it.

    • Thanks, Emily. Now I’ll just go back to being a non-offensive mummy-blogger, shall I? 😉

  • Is what John Piper saying really all that offensive? He is encouraging women to invest in their families and communities and to consider that full time work and young children may be hard to combine. I’ve read both Piper and Jesus Needs New PR on this and they just seem to be not that far apart. John Piper surely isn’t pushing a denim jumpered existence on women-he’s just (quite courteously) saying step back and consider. Matthew Turner’s wife stays home with their son-maybe she stepped back and considered the impact on their family also.
    I know that there are those who thinking that working outside the home is sin-John Piper is not of that group. You may not agree with him but to call him legalistic is inaccurate.

    • I’m sorry, Sandy, I realise I didn’t make myself clear. I don’t find what John Piper said legalistic or even that offensive. It’s the entire debate that it touched off that I find offensive and some of the comments and guilt that I’ve seen flung at both sides is legalistic. My apologies for not being more clear.

      • Agreed. While I don’t necessarily agree with Piper’s assertion that it out to be discouraged, his video was not nearly as offensive as the blog posts and commenters chiming in after it.

      • Thanks for clarifying that, Sarah. I find the whole debate to be exhausting and oh, so very Western. Not even a topic on my side of the world.

        • To be truthful, not in my world either. It’s only in certian pockets that I find it. I suppose that was why I wanted to write about it.

    • MPT’s wife works outside the home.

  • Mjhamm

    Great post Sarah, I don’t think it matters if moms work or not, what matters is how parents spend their time with their children when they are with them.

    • There’s that as well, you’re right, Sharon.

  • Sarah, again I thank you for your comments. As I posted the other day, I come from a part of the church where this debate is not so heated…after all, I’m a woman pastor. But regardless of whether we’re immersed in the religious debate around this, or not, I think all mothers at some point struggle with whether or not we are doing enough/available enough/etc whether we work outside the home or at home. When you wrote, “I am able to love them well, make a good home in partnership with my husband and still work outside the home,” I was touched. I thank you for the equal teaching you are doing with your son and your daughter, for the fact that they are seeing both of their parents play important roles at home and in the world. Thanks for your words.

    • It’s so nice to “meet” you, Jill. I feel sometimes that I am walking that line – raised in a culture and society that doesn’t care about this stuff but in a sub-culture that is still debating these types of things. It’s an odd place to straddle. I appreciate your perspective and am so glad that you are here.

  • Debsy

    I love this post. My hubby and I don’t have any children yet but my dad has many times tried to persuade that it is unbiblical, selfish and terribly detrimental to the children for women to work once they become mothers. It’s definitely something I’ve examined and given a lot of thought to for when we do start a family and reading this post makes me feel as though I’ve gotten a little confidence boost in my decision.

    • I think that’s the main reason why I wrote this – to encourage people to seek god for themselves and make those decisions with their families. We lose so much by just doing what we’re told. If you do stay home with your children or go to work, it doesn’t matter. I am sorry that you’re facing pressure regardless – being a parent is hard enough without all of us judging everything we do with our own families, right?

  • Beautiful post. It’s the lack of encouragement to seek God’s calling for YOUR OWN life that discourages me so much.

    • Right. Why are we so afraid to embrace freedom?

  • Lalania

    I’m not going to get too far into this debate, but I find it interesting that those who say moms working outside the home is unbiblical and the only scripture reference I know in the bible talking about a truly Godly woman is the Proverbs 31 woman (I actually can’t really remember off the top of my head any other scripture that refers directly to this). It seems to me that she was managing her home and working outside it, no?

  • jennchiodo

    okay. rare comment from jenn. can i just say i never gave one iota of a thought about the church and what it thinks when it came time for us to decide for me to work outside the home? never thought for a second about whether it’s biblical or not. can we just say…survival in the 21st century?!? you do what you have to do to make it work. period. in my opinion, how we function as a family and lead and rear our children is way more important to me in my relationship with God. what some pastor said based on their interpretation of scripture…i just don’t give two hoots about that. i work 2 12 hour shifts as a nurse. i’m home 5 days a week with my kiddos. and we make it work. and it works great. and i’m thankful in todays culture that i don’t have to work more. i’m working to help pay a mortgage. definitely not because we have a house full of doodads and up to our eyeballs in debt. couldn’t you say the reverse about those situations where the mom is a stay at home mom and does EVERYTHING for the everyone in the family and the dad doesn’t give much input into the daily happenings or the rearing of his own children? what kind of family unit is that? i’m just shocked that this has become an issue in the church. seriously?!?

    • I know – it’s shocking to me too. I almost didn’t want to write this because I’m just plain saddened that we’re even HAVING this discussion in this day and age.

  • Mary

    Boy..preach is sista! I grew up in the church and in that Focus on the Family midset…the godly thing to do was to stay home with the kids. Yet, my parents emphasized how I should go to college. I think they wanted me to get my degree and a man. So I got this double message and wanting to please God, I decided that God was going to put me in a SAHM position. I just assumed it would work out that way. Boy was I WRONG. Had I known, I would have planned my education and work career much differently. I’ve always worked but it NEVER occurred to me that my husband would not be able to hold a job for any length of time.

    So this mindset of “you should stay’s God’s model for the family” did our family GREAT damage. I was unprepared to support our family financially through our various crises of health an unemployment. I always have worked (except when my kids were born) but I never thought I’d be in the job long so I never pursued promotions (I did receive them) or further education to improve my earning power. Can you say financial disaster like 4x over? What a crock. I am very angry at the lies I have been fed by the Christian media. I never thought it was WRONG; just a second rate choice to stay home. I see now that this was more about worshiping an era of American Culture than following the call of God on our lives.

    I too felt out of the circle of Christian mothers at my church. The mom’s group also met on Tuesday morning, while I was working. I felt on the outs and my husband was the associate pastor. I was the only working woman married to a staff member or leader. The only one.

    That being said, I have NO issue with women staying home. I have NO issue with women working. As long as we are following the calling of God on our lives. Unfortunately, I grew up in a church that did not believe that God speaks today, so there was no seeking after God for his will on this matter.

    I read a book called “Balancing Act” by a woman..her last name is Ashcroft. VERY good book on this issue. I highly recommend it.

    I will train my daughter up to seek God’s direction for her life. His plan is far better than our own or anyone else’s.

    • Oh, Mary – there is a book here. I’ll have to check out that one you recommended. But your perspective is important and needs to be heard. Incredible truth here.

  • JillRosalie

    I DO believe that God speaks today! I agree, we should follow what he asks us to do, and to seek him.

    Just last week I spoke with a mother whose 14 year old daughter is facing the judgmental “Christian” spirit in her life. The girl is very athletic, loves sports, and chooses to play basketball … which involves games on Friday nights when her youth group meets. Her junior high friends are already into trying to guilt trip her that she should be at youth group and that that is so much more spiritual than her playing basketball. Junior high, for pity sake. I think this situation, like the whole working/sahm mom debate are signs of the same thing. We Christians are freaking scared of freedom! We want our boxes and our black and white, and I honestly think we’re afraid, we feel out of control when we see others living in freedom with Christ, following his leading instead of the traditions of a culture. Let’s be free, and allow others to be free! That’s my sermon for the day!

    • FREEDOM! FREEDOM! FREEDOM! ding ding ding! That’s just it. We are terrified of life without borders. Also some of this I harken back to insecurity – we feel judged or belittled when someone chooses differently and so we have to make their choice wrong or unbiblical instead of just that – a different choice. I love what you wrote here, Jillsa.

  • Love this Sarah, thanks for posting. What I have never understood in any of the debates about women working in the home or outside of it, both in secular and religious debates, is the lack of encouragement to MEN to stay at home with children. Two and a half years ago, my husband quit his job to stay at home with our daughter and pursue his more creative gifts and I went back to work. I’m an actor, so you can imagine we took a MAJOR financial hit but I can quite honestly say that it has been the best two years of our lives! My husband has an amazing relationship with our daughter, he’s more comfortable in his own skin and he has exhibited tremendous skill in managing our home. I’m about to have our second baby and he’s just gone back to working outside the home. We really want to be able to have one of us at home with the children, and it may be that we need to make sacrifices in our work-out-of-the- home lives to do so… that’s going to be tough but I just feel sooooo blessed to be so completely partnered in the raising of our children. I just don’t understand why, if the church is so hot on having someone stay at home with children, they don’t put equal pressure on fathers as they do on mothers!!!

    • I agree completely. My husband was home for a year with our oldest and it was similar to the experience your husband had – he loved it!

  • Saramccord

    Love it. And I love it when you stir it up! I’ve been thinking about it all morning…

    • Oh, I’ve been doing some stirring this week all right. I need to go in the corner and suck my thumb or something now. Or eat raw cookie dough.

  • Susan

    Oh what freedom there is when we allow the Holy Spirit to take us to new soaring heights with him. I would never have guessed that I would be a university student at the same time as raising my girls. But God has literally blind-sided me and caused me to completely release any preconceived ideas of what I think he wants. I respect my friends that are called to stay home/homeschool because God has called them to that! But what kind of a child of God would I be if I ignored the persistent nudging of the Holy Spirit to be a good steward of the gifting he has placed in me? So, back to school I go. Who knew?

    • You’ve hit on something here, Sooz, that is important – freedom.

      (And oh, the gift you have!)

  • Deleted – I wasn’t helpful in the conversation – I’m sorry! I respect you Sarah! 🙂

    • In our family, we follow this verse as a theme- “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and its righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” For us, this has meant spending our life reaching out to the international community in the USA and now living and working in East Asia. What that has meant in a practical reality is that my husband (a pastor) has worked in churches that reach out to these communities. Rarely have these churches paid a living wage or provided health insurance. So I have worked, out of necessity and vocation.
      What has it looked like in my life to be a keep of the home? Well, it’s looked like international students being in our home for every holiday. It’s looked like game nights for lonely people. It’s meant giving away our extra stuff to refugees. It’s meant being known by name by the international community in our town. It’s meant having an open door, come as you are policy for people.
      It has not meant being at home full time. It has meant working part time as an ESL teacher and being home when my daughter got home from school. It has meant going to her school and knowing the international population there and being able to serve as an advocate for some of these families.
      I knit. I read aloud to my daughter for years. The scrapbooking stuff-let’s just say I wasn’t gifted at it..
      So what has it meant for our daughter to follow this hopefully biblical model of family? Well, when a refugee child stole our daughter’s long saved for I-pod, it meant that she learned a hard lesson of mercy. It meant that she has a big understanding of different Asian cultures, valuable now that we live overseas and her school and living community are Asian. It has meant that being a keeper of the home is found in opening our home to the lonely because “God sets the lonely in families.”
      Would it have been any different if I had been home full time? Yes, I wouldn’t have had the connections with people that I have. Would it have made a difference if I had worked full time? Maybe…it would have required more organization and support.
      I don’t think my values or interpretation of Scripture of relativistic. I place a high value of Scripture as the rule and authority of my life. It’s just a question of what “keeper of the home” looks like in our individual lives.

      • Sandy, as much as I want to encourage women in their biblical roles, every family works it out differently, and some women have to work. There are so many complexities, for sure, and I don’t think it is a salvation issue or an “I love Jesus” more issue…but it is something to be discussed because it’s God’s idea. Thank you for sharing with me your story – very inspiring! Oh, and I completely agree with opening our home to the lonely – amen!

        • I’m glad you’re here, Sarah Mae, and that you’ve met Sandy. She’s a woman that I have admired for many years.

      • See, now that’s exactly what I mean!

    • Thanks for coming by, Sarah mae. I appreciate your perspective.

      As I’m sure you’re not surprised, I do disagree. As you said, grace, grace, grace. I do take issue with your blanket statement that it is simply not possible for a woman to work full time outside the home and NOT be a keeper of the home. Not only have I expereinced that personally (my mother worked and was an excellent “keeper of the home” as well as myself and many other godly women that I know personally) but I don’t think the specifics of how/what/when is mandated in scripture. I love Scripture, as I’m sure that you do, but i come to a different conclusion on how those things are lived out in life. Thanks again for being so civil and disagreeing well. Blessings.

  • You put in words exactly how I feel! Thank you for being so well-spoken! God Bless! 🙂

  • Sarah,
    I’ll stay out of the stay at home vs. work debate for the moment. But, I have a question about one of your main points.
    “Anytime that I try to make my interpretation of scripture … a rule, I impose legalism on others.”
    Is there any bases on which interpretation of scripture is to be made? Or, does anything go? If someone says they love Jesus & believe the Bible, is everything okay, if they themselves believe it to be biblical?
    Is the doctrine of the Trinity up for debate? The morality of Fornication? Original sin? The Deity of Christ?
    Polygamy? Abuse? Or???

    • I think that the point that Sarah is making with that statement (and correct me if I am wrong, Sarah) is that we have to differentiate between the clear mandate of Scripture and the way we want to see this mandate lived out. The essentials of the gospels (Propitiation, Justification, Sanctification) can not be argued. The idea of the “biblical family” can be.

      • Sandy, I appreciate your comment (& your other comments here! I was thinking the same thing as your initial comment about John Piper not being that offensive.).
        I what you said just above about being a keeper at home will look different in different families & lives.
        I do believe that the bold letter comment that I am asking Sarah about is very problematic, if not properly clarified.

        • Thanks for seeking clarity, Erin. Sandy was right on. I was writing specifically about this issue and how to live out the mandates of scripture within our families.

      • You are exactly right, Sandy – you know me and my heart so well. I was being specific to this issue not taking broad strokes.

  • Tam

    I belong to a a mostly liberal denomination and I’m one of the rare stay at home moms at church where people have awesome careers. I also homeschool, so I’m with many stay at home moms during the week, but often I’m the odd woman out with some of my ideas that are considered liberal (ie..not christian). It is a confusing time for women. I get sooo tired of it at times. Where do I fit in? I’d love to work sometimes, but I feel very good doing what I’m doing for my family.

    • It is confusing! We’re damned if we do and all that, eh? I’m glad that you are doing what you feel lead to do, regardless of the confusion from both sides. No one likes it when you’re not easily labeled, do they?

  • There are so many statements I love in this post, but mostly I believe it boils down to following God’s will for my life, and recognizing that God does different things with different people at different times. I needed to be full-time at home for years. Now I have the opportunity to work part-time at the children’s hospital here.

    I will be sharing this post.

    P.S. I shared your Nines post on my Facebook page and started what ended up being a 40-comment argument about emerging theology. I was glad all that didn’t end up here! 🙂

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Joy. I’m sorry I got you into trouble with your friends! The emerging church is the one thing that unites most of Christendom – they all don’t like us. Ha! You can comfort them that I am officially “post-emeging” but I doubt that’ll help. So glad that you “get” what I was trying to say.

  • Foodfunfamily

    Wow, I guess I don’t really fit on either side of the camp. I worked more when my kids were younger, teaching at a college. Either my pastor-husband, or myself were with our kids when the other was at work. It was necessary for me to work. That or him get another job, which we didn’t think was best for the kids, or our marriage. Then, we’d never see him. And I quiet like my husband and he likes our kids. We decided it was best for me to work part-time, him get time with the kids and me a bit of intellectual stimulation.

    In the last two years, I work less outside of the home than in years past (or less paid work outside of the home), but I do work. I am on staff part-time at a church, as a staff pastor; teach private music lessons from our home; home school our kids, all the while managing our home, keeping out budget in tact and maintaing a THRIVING marriage with my husband.

    I thoroughly believe that a mom can be at home and her heart NOT really “be there”. As well, a mom can work outside of the home and give more attention to her home, family and marriage than some SAHM that I have been acquainted.

    Yes, Sarah, I do believe God still speaks today. And for each family, couple, mom and dad, that message is different. God’s word stands and is true. But making blanket statements that “such and so” is right for all marriages is just not the case. Or, at least, hasn’t been for me.

    Addressing this debate as both a woman in ministry and a pastor’s wife….Many of the folks you and I know, Sarah, our pastors’ wives friends don’t have a choice to NOT work, unlike many of the ladies in their churches. And many of the pastors’ wives that we know, who do work outside of the home to support their pastor-husbands, consider it as much a ministry and calling as their SAHM counter-parts. Add to working outside of the home, caring for your family, investing in your marriage along with the church’s expectations for you, your husband and your kids….now that is a balancing act I am so thankful that I don’t have anymore b/c we are in an amazing church that let’s me be me.

    Yet, so many pastors’ wives aren’t. This debate hits the very core of where many of these women are. John Piper and many other ‘famous’ pastors are able to provide for their wives to stay home via book deals, speaking engagements, higher salaries, etc. The pastor of a church of an average size church, or one less than a 100 people, not so much.

    Perhaps we will learn to show grace to all. Instead of it being us versus them, to learn to come alongside of one another and offer assistance. Our culture is so very different nowadays. We think we have to be able to do it all (SAHM and WOHM). This is a lie. We are women, God’s children who have gifts and talents that need to be shared with one another. SAHM and WOH have a lot to learn from each other. Why can’t we stop the argument and finding the difference and instead, look for the common ground? Offer encouragement? Resources? Tips?

    Women used to help one another. Cook together. Raise kids together. Do household chores together (getting the ironing boards out and chatting while doing so, preparing veggies to preserve. ALL TOGETHER!) Now, we just see how different we are, try to do it all (alone) and then isolate ourselves from one another.

    We haven’t walked in the other’s shoes….if we were given the opportunity, I am sure our words would be very different.

    Regardless of varying stances of this debate, one thing is true, we are all doing what we earnestly believe God has called us to do for our families, in this season and for this time. Yes, God still speaks. He sure does!


    • Jada

      Sorry for the typos…needed to edit, but couldn’t.

    • Excellent wisdom and perspective, Jada. Coming alongside each other sounds much more “kingdom-like” to me.

  • I suspect that one’s viewpoint on this subject will be dependent on how “keeper of the home” is defined. What exactly is God instructing us to do?

    Is it simply about the tasks of running a home? If it is, and I’m going to be honest here-it’s really hard to do this if you’re not home full time.

    But what if it’s not so much about the tasks of homemaking and more about the people in our lives-starting with the ones in our own home? Is it possible to nurture and grow relationships while still working-whether that means outside the home or a home-based business? I believe that it’s possible to do this in either situation, though working a job will require some patience, compromise, and understanding (all of which are excellent tools for healthy relationship building).

    I’ve been home full time. I’ve worked-both part time and full time. Now I’m home full time again. So I think it’s fair to say that I can see both sides of the issue. In my humble opinion, there is no need to judge the decisions my godly sisters make. The Holy Spirit is capable of leading each of us. Rather than make sweeping blanket statements about which choice is right or wrong, wouldn’t it be wiser (and perhaps more scriptural) to focus our attention on our own lives? Am I nurturing the relationships God has placed in my sphere of influence? Am I making it a point to really know my husband and children? Do the people in my life know that they matter more than the the tasks in my life (whether that means going to work every day or scrubbing the bathrooms)? If I can answer yes to these questions, doesn’t this mean that I’m the keeper of my home?

    • You’re right – no sweeping blanket statements. Your questions are insightful and should be part of this. I think that’s ultimately where I end up.

  • Stephanie

    Sarah, you DO know that I totally love you and your blog, right? I do. I really, really do. 🙂

    You talk about all of the things that I like talking about too – parenting, politics, religion, etc. I love hearing why people do the things they do and you always state your opinions with such boldness (but also, w/ such beautiful humility).

    I agree w/ you on most points in this piece. I will say, however, that I think it is important for children to spend MOST of their time w/ their parents (dad or mom or both). I want to say more, but perhaps I need to write a post. Otherwise, this comment will be way, way too long.

    • I think we can all agree on that, Stephanie. None of us wants our children in institutional childcare 40 plus hours a week. Many families work creatively to solve this issue-flex time, working from home, shared care. It’s hard but doable.

      • You two know my fundie, denim-jumper-wearing background. *knowing look at Sarah & Sandy* While I’m not half as dogmatic these days (I hope!), I still find these two points very valid for the other side of the camp. They’re from Stephanie and Jennie, I believe:

        1. It’s important for children to spend most of their time w/parents.
        2. It’s difficult to run a home well and not be home full-time.

        Sadly, Sandy’s comment (which I reply to) does not reflect the opinion of many Christian women. I have a few friends who have chosen to put their few-week-olds into year-round, full-time institutional care. The 40+ hours a week kind. That makes my heart ache. Especially when I have a few-week old, who needs round the clock nurture. From mom. One instance was just a temporary thing that has turned into a “just until he or I finish our degree” thing. The degree is at least 2 years away. That makes my heart BLEED. We’re talking about a maximum of 3 hours a day with your baby/toddler.

        But I digress…

        Unlike what I’ve read over and over in these comments, I don’t think the call here is not to judge each other, but rather (Matt. 7) to judge righteous judgments. If we’re judging heart motives, that’s a foul. If we’re acknowledging that they have some priority issues, fair game…as long as it’s done soberly, with a good look in the mirror. Of course we’re going to live and even parent differently. (Hot dogs, anyone? paha) It’s okay to disagree with someone’s priorities and choices. And it’s possible to stay close friends even while disagreeing keenly.

        This came around full circle for me recently: one of the aforementioned cases is a friend I highly, highly respect. During one of our last visits together – her daughter is 2 1/2 – she acknowledged the elephant in the room, remarking that she has always valued my husband and I because we don’t belittle her for working. Now, I know her personally: their situation is NOT one of unwillingness to practice some self-denial. She cannot wait to be home with her little one, but seriously, that’s not the clincher for me. After being depressed for a week when she told me the news about having to use daycare (I had a 6-week-old then), I had to wrestle with the issue for months. I even cried. For her child! rofl But after awhile, I reminded myself that they love the Lord and make Him the priority in their lives, and my job was simply to love my friend. Relief! That I can do! And God was gracious enough to bless me through my friend for the small amount of grace I extended to her…even though I didn’t even consider she might notice. 🙂

        As far as Point 2 goes…that’s a whole ‘nother comment, and honestly, with a houseful of tinies and not-so-tinies, Point 1 is the closest to my heart at the mo’. I would recommend NOT doing a white-glove test on my furniture. (Don’t tell mom!)

        As an aside, I’m not sure this post completely reflects your heart on the matter, Sarah. (Something about Canadians getting a whole year of maternity leave might have something to do with it? ha) I know you mostly well, and I suppose I can’t really see you encouraging mothers of tinies to work full-time as a long-term decision.

        • You’re right, Gina. My perspective is definitely one of privilege. We have a year of maternity leave and, personally, I do believe that it has been best for our children to be home with one of us almost exclusively their entire lives so far. So we have made sacrifices to make that happen. My heart broke for the year I worked full-time away from Anne and was pregnant with Joe (you remember). But to me, there is a world of difference between “This is God’s way, by law, for everyone” and that. Do I have my own opinions about what’s best? Sure. We all do. But there is a big difference between admitting that it’s my opinion and saying ‘this is GOD’S OPINION’ end of story.

          I love your story aboutu your friend and loving her through all of that. I’ve cried watching my friends have to drop their babies off at daycare at that age as well. That was, honestly, one of my motivators to moving home to Canada (maternity leave is one of my soapboxes).

          I love you and your perspective here.

        • Stephanie

          Hi Gina! I so appreciated your comments on this post. I particularly like the part when you wrote…

          “I don’t think the call here is not to judge each other, but rather (Matt. 7) to judge righteous judgments. If we’re judging heart motives, that’s a foul. If we’re acknowledging that they have some priority issues, fair game…as long as it’s done soberly, with a good look in the mirror. Of course we’re going to live and even parent differently. (Hot dogs, anyone? paha) It’s okay to disagree with someone’s priorities and choices. And it’s possible to stay close friends even while disagreeing keenly.”

          This is key. I think it’s good and important to state our opinions and to discuss why we do certain things, etc. With humility and love. It’s how we learn and grow.

          I do support and encourage moms that choose to work (flex-time, part-time, at home, etc.), but I have to admit that my heart breaks a little bit when I see parents send their kids to daycare FT…

          • My heart does that “ache” too over full time daycare. I confess most of my anger is directed at no maternity leave or lack of options for working families than the parents though. I think there are few mothers that wouldn’t like to have a that first year off with their babies.

            Humility and love – I need more of both of those.

      • Exactly. I think my point (I think?) is that there is a big difference between “this is God’s way by law and everyone should do it exactly this way” and freedom & grace for each family as they walk out life together.

    • I agree completely with you. And that’s how we’ve structured our lives. But there is a world of difference between “this is God’s way by law” and that, in my opinion. (Of which I have legion, apparently.)

  • I found you through Emily @ The Pilots Wife and I have to say thank you for this post. You nailed it perfectly. Thank you for reminding us all that our walk with Jesus – is exactly that, ours. Not anyone elses.
    We should each be on our knees praying for our families and asking for guidance. The guidance that each of us hears, is just for us. Thanks again.

    • Thank you, Delane! It’s nice to “meet” you. Your advice – to pray and ask for guidance – is very key to all of this, and, sadly, not emphasised in a one-size-fits-all approach to living.

  • Followed you here from Elizabeth Esther’s blog, and I just have to say that this post is gorgeous. Every truth-soaked word of it is to be savoured. Thank you for sharing.

    • Thank you so much, Andrea! So nice to “meet” you.

  • yes yes yes. i stay home with my kids, but there is no one-size-fits-all answer for every faithful woman or family. the mommy wars are bad enough, yet worsen still when the bible is wielded as a weapon.

    the phrase “biblical womanhood” makes me shudder, too–and i appreciated your earlier post on women in church leadership. keep speaking up.

    • Exactly – you get what I was trying to say. There is no “one-size-fits-all” family structure and it’s disingenuous at best and abusive at worst to say otherwise. Thanks for stopping by, friend.

  • Yay for you! I am a follower of Christ, wife, mom, and lawyer (in that order).
    I have always worked since graduating from law school almost 15 years ago. My son is ten and I hope that while he is learning to follow Christ he is also learning that women can be strong, intelligent, gifted, and faithful role models as Christians.
    The church I attend and love does not allow female elders, even though there are many female doctors, lawyers, and businesswomen that would make excellent elders. It is a shame and a waste in my opinion.

    • It is a shame and waste. I would love to see more women in leadership, particularly inside the church.

  • I need to tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog – no matter what the topic. You are always a breath of fresh air.

    • Thank you, Bill – that means a lot coming from someone I respect. (Hope you had a refreshing time in Portland.)