For the first 10 years of our marriage, I worked part time first as a church secretary and then as a piano teacher to supplement Jon's income. I found both jobs enjoyable and appreciated each of them, and by carefully planning my schedule, we never had to pay for childcare. Even so, I would have greatly preferred to be home full time. Between the fact that I’m a complete introvert and that I believe a woman’s primary ministry is in her home (though, of course, her home is not her only ministry!), I didn’t like having to leave my husband and little ones in order to work.
I spent long evenings teaching music in my students’ homes, often waging through horrendous traffic just to give a 30-minute lesson before struggling through more jammed freeways to reach the next student. I taught through multiple rounds of morning sickness, which only added to my misery. I taught at odd hours to accommodate my students’ scheduling needs. And although most of my piano families were wonderful, I had that inevitable student who would call to cancel 5 minutes before lesson time. The worst lesson I ever endured was the time I showed up to a student’s home only to discover that although her entire family had the stomach flu, she still wanted a lesson. The Pepto Bismol on the counter mocked me as I tried to hold my breath and avoided touching the piano keys.
When the Lord provided a job for Jon that fully met our financial needs, I was over the moon at the fact that I could stop working. It wasn’t that I disliked my job, but the stress that it placed on both me and my family was a burden I gladly surrendered at the earliest opportunity. I was truly sorry to say goodbye to my current students – they were some of the best I’d had in all my years of teaching – but the first night I didn’t have to leave Jon and the spark plugs felt like Christmas.
Over the years, I’ve met other amazing ladies who also have to work but are waiting for the day when they can be home with their families. My heart goes out to them, because I can well relate. And many of them have been working far, far longer than I ever did at jobs that aren’t as easy and high-paying as mine were. I wish I could promise them that tomorrow they’ll be able to quit their jobs, that the end is almost in sight. But, of course, I can’t do that.
What I might be able to do, though, is to offer some encouragement, share what helped me get through my jobs, and express what I wished I had done while I worked.
(Note: Truthfully, I feel a little timid about sharing my thoughts when so many amazing women have had much longer, more difficult positions and situations than I ever had. I mean, I worked as a church secretary where I interacted daily with friends, and if I had to work outside the home, there isn’t much that’s more rewarding than teaching. I greatly admire these ladies who have a much tougher time than I ever have.)
1. Pray for Contentment
My number one go-to problem-solving method is prayer. No matter what the issue at hand, I try to pray first and foremost, and I always ask my close-knit prayer group to pray as well. One thing that I didn’t do much of when I was working, though, was praying for contentment. I prayed for a better job for Jon; for my students to remember to pay their tuition fees; and for the kids to be good for Jon while I was away. Had I also prayed for contentment during that time, I might have handled the strain with much greater grace than I did.
2. Remember that your desire to be at home is Biblical
I never once felt guilty for wanting to be free of my jobs. I was confident that taking care of my family and my home was of utmost importance to the Lord, and therefore, desiring to be home with them was a good thing. The world tries to convey the idea that a woman without an outside source of income is incomplete, but the Bible places greatest importance on serving our husbands and ministering to our families. We should never think that the desire to be at home is out of place.
3. Understand that life is not perfect
One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn thus far is that life isn’t perfect. While we are to aspire to the Biblical model of the husband providing for his family while his wife manages the home, situations of sin, illness, injury, and death can all contribute to the demise of this beautiful arrangement. Single moms, widows, and women whose husbands have been disabled all have to fill the role of provider in addition to their call to manage their homes. I am so thankful that while life on Earth will never be the way we wish, we as believers do have the hope of Heaven where things will be just as God had originally planned.
4. Consider how your husband feels
It took me several years to realize that my having to work was probably harder on Jon than it was even for me. It can be extremely humbling for a husband who either cannot work or cannot find a job that pays well enough to meet his family’s needs. Looking back, I can see that Jon really needed me to be more understanding and supportive while he couldn’t provide the way he felt he should. I was so tired and worn out from working at night after shepherding spark plugs all day that I didn’t encourage him enough. If I had it to do all over again, I would want to focus more on encouraging him when he felt frustrated that I had to work.
5. Pray for a change of circumstances, but be thankful if they don’t
We’re told to ask the Lord in faith for things. Since we know that staying home as stewards of our families and houses is Biblical, we can ask for a change of situation that would permit us to do so. Since we also know that the Lord’s ways are not ours and that His timing is often not what we expect, we need to remember to be thankful even if He decides that we need to continue working for a while longer. Most of all, we can focus on the glory of Heaven, where things of this Earth will pass away and we will live forever with Christ and in the perfection that will be there.
Working from home or outside the home can be very difficult. We don’t know at what time, if ever, circumstances will change. We can still choose to be joyful; we can still opt to submit to our own husbands; and we can continue to hunger for the perfection of Heaven some day, no matter what our present situation is on Earth. As believers, we always have hope. Whether we work for 6 days, 6 months, or 60 years, we need to remember that this truly is temporal when compared to the infinite days of Eternity.
Your turn: Do you work or have you worked, either at home or away from your family? What things encourage you along the way? What do you wish you had done differently? What words of wisdom would you offer to someone else who has to work but wishes she did not?