Who has it easier, a mother who stays at home, or a mother who works outside the home? Actually, I should probably be asking a different question -- who has it harder. Motherhood is hard work, no matter how you slice it.
As a wife, mother of three young children, and lawyer who works outside of my home in the face-paced environment of a large law firm, I can’t even begin to answer this question. Nor would I want to. Based on my own journey and my limited perceptions about what’s going on in the homes of other women, I can’t advocate one path over another or declare that the path I’ve lived is more or less demanding, exhausting, or rewarding. Sure, human nature is such that I always tend to believe that no one understands what it’s like to walk in my shoes, but my self-absorbed pity party is hardly unique.
The short answer is that all mothers work. And we don’t just work, we work hard. Instead of focusing on the differences between stay-at-home mothers and mothers who work outside the home, I often wish we could focus on what we have in common. Shouldn’t the church be a place where we come together?
Let’s face it, there are certain misconceptions about motherhood and careers. And there has been little healthy dialogue about these stereotypes within the church.
What stereotypes am I talking about? I’ll start with career women, since I fall into this camp. (I not only fall into this camp -- as a working mother in a demanding profession who is likewise very passionate about raising my children, I’m the first to acknowledge the constant tension between my two worlds of work and home.)
Cathy Career is selfish. She’s careful not to have more than two children because they might interfere with her success. Her husband is forced to do laundry and fend for himself around the house, and she doesn’t have time to bake cookies or pack her children nutritious lunches, so her family is always eating junk and picking up fast food. She doesn’t have time to volunteer at church (or get involved in a church for that matter) and she’s lucky if she shows up once a year to volunteer at her kids’ school. She’s intimidated by stay-at-home moms because she assumes they think she’s a bad mother -- that she’s putting herself or her job before her family. After all, what’s more important, your family or a paycheck? Her identity rests on what she does outside the home.
Susie Stay-At-Home is obsessed with her children. She takes her kids to “Mommy and Me” classes and spends her spare time making homemade jam and elaborate family scrapbooks. She never buys any new clothes, spends most of her time cooking and cleaning, and she barely gets out of the house -- except when she is volunteering at church or school. She’s a Sunday School teacher and a proud “Room Mom.” She serves her husband like a king and never makes him do chores around the house. She’s intimidated by career women because she assumes they think she doesn’t have ambition -- or worse, that she doesn’t have a brain just because she’s with her children all day. Her identity rests on what she does inside the home.