I work full-time as a project manager in the aerospace industry – a career I’ve always dreamed of having. While I dreamed of a career, I didn’t necessarily have any plans for a family of my own, but now that I’ve been married for ten years, with two daughters, I can’t imagine life any other way.
Well, yes, I can. I can imagine being a stay-at-home mom, but we have quite the student loan debt, so that isn’t possible. Yet.
I’ve spent some time feeling a little guilty – feeling as though I should have known better, as a good Christian girl. Feeling as though I should have prepared better for a life at home with my girls. Feeling as though I’m supposed to stay home and scrape by because the Bible must say that somewhere since that’s what so many Christian women do. The gold-standard women in Proverbs 31 was a poor stay-at-home mom, right? Wrong!
The Proverbs 31 woman is truly a remarkable woman. She’s up before the sun rises, she takes care of her family, and she is an honor to her husband. She frankly exhausts me and that’s before you learn about the ways she earns money and manages it, too!
She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. (Proverbs 31:24 NIV)
The lady worked, plain and simple. I feel a little freedom when I read this. I’m not doing anything wrong by working, whether by necessity or not. In fact, I don’t know of any Bible verses that say women shouldn’t work. If you are like me, carrying some Christian-mom guilt around because you have to work to help pay the bills, you can stop. If you are on the other side, possibly making Christian women feel bad just for working, well – you should probably stop, too.
Be clear, though, and read the rest of the passage, because she didn’t just work. We aren’t given a picture of a woman who spends all her time sewing.
She had help
I live far away from family, and when I need some help, I rely on our church family. That works out pretty well, but we live in an area that isn’t exactly the Bible Belt. Our congregation is very, very small, and almost everyone works full-time. I use a daycare center close to work, because that’s the best option I see.
You know what? This gold-standard woman in Proverbs 31 also had hired help:
She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants. (Proverbs 31:15 NIV, emphasis is mine)
Maybe your family needs to hire out childcare help. Maybe it’s help around the house or the yard. That’s OK! It’s wise to know when you need help and it’s OK to use your income to hire out some tasks.
Just in case anyone thinks this lady is working just to help her family scrape by, there’s a few clues that is not the case. First, we’ve already covered that she had servants. Just-getting-by people could not afford servants. Second, verse 23 says her husband is respected at the city gate. This city gate place-of-honor was reserved for the nobility – the rich. But perhaps most telling is that she actually used her earnings to invest. Verse 16 tells us that she bought a vineyard, so she took at least some of the money she’s earning through her hard work and used that to diversify her income.
These are simply my reflections on the Biblical standard for a woman. The Bible doesn’t say that women have to work or that they have to stay home. The Bible doesn’t say you have to leave your children with family, if you need to work. The Bible also doesn’t say to only work “just enough” to get by. It’s suffocating, stressful, and unnecessary to push these as Biblical standards upon yourself (or others). But beyond that, if you have beat yourself up about being a working mom – perhaps one who loves her career (gasp!) – stop. There’s nothing wrong with what you are doing.
Is the Proverbs 31 model a good one? Did you have a stay-at-home parent? If you have kids, do you have family nearby to help out?