Many ministers are afraid to address the issues facing mothers when it comes to working outside of the home. No matter what you have learned through research, observation or personal experience, half of the people you are attempting to serve become angry with you when you share what you have learned. The anger convinces many to just avoid the topic entirely.
As I encounter more and more kids and teens in extreme emotional and spiritual pain on an almost daily basis, I think it is time we take a balanced, honest look at the topic of working, both parents roles in parenting and the impact it has on children. We have to start being honest, discussing priorities and learning how God wants us to parent our kids.
Recently, I was offered the opportunity to review a new book, Stretched Too Thin: How Working Moms Can Lose the Guilt, Work Smarter and Thrive by Jessica Turner. Honestly, I thought I had rejected the opportunity because my research, observations and experience have given me some pretty strong feelings on the topic. For some reason, I received a copy anyway.
The topic of the book is pretty clear from the title. The author seems to believe all women can, should and do work outside of the home. Of course, women who have chosen to be stay-at-home moms probably aren’t going to read this book anyway, so I understand the author’s bias.
She does have some good things to share in her book. She discusses priorities and the need to stop trying to stretch ourselves too thin. Pushing beyond what we can and should be doing is okay for the short term, but causes all sorts of damage if attempted for long.
I love that she starts with having women really look at what they are trying to accomplish in their lives – both at work and at home. Sometimes, we just keep doing what we are doing without stopping to think about whether it is actually working or not. We know we are tired, but aren’t quite sure what is causing it and what we might be able to change to improve things.
The author also spends time talking about core values, which is another area I feel many people miss. As an individual, it may only harm you if your priorities are off base. As a parent, the impact touches the loves of your kids. Wrong priorities can cause lasting damage to your kids – another topic about which Christians need to have more honest discussions.
My problem is this whole idea that guilt is somehow bad. Often guilt is good, because it is our early warning system that something is wrong. Christians may be nudged by the Holy Spirit to reconsider choices that are pulling them and their kids away from God. Often those nudges feel like guilt. Trying to erase guilt by really examining why you might feel guilty and if corrections are needed is better than basically ignoring those feelings.
I also get very frustrated with this concept that a mom working outside the home is great for the kids merely because some study showed that daughters whose moms worked also go on to have good business jobs. Why is this considered “better” than daughters who decide to be stay-at-home moms as adults? And the idea that a career is the only way a woman can find “fulfillment” or use her talents is utterly insulting.
Here is the unvarnished truth. For kids to be healthy emotionally and spiritually, they need a ton of quality time, interaction, and guidance from their parents. That may look different in different homes. Some single moms don’t have options. Ironically, they are often the very best at giving their kids the time and attention they need, because they are more aware of the realities.
Being a stay-at-home mom isn’t the answer either, if you spend all of your time on your phone or hanging out with your friends. Kids can be just as needy with stay-at-home moms as they would be with moms who have jobs outside of the home.
So what’s the answer? The author is right in some ways. Look at how you are spending your time. How much quality time are you really giving your kids? If it’s not enough, something needs to give. You also need to examine your core values. If your number one value is getting your kids to Heaven, does your schedule and your spouse’s schedule reflect that? Do you really need the house you have or can you downsize? (Sharing bedrooms with siblings isn’t fatal.) What about cars and other items that are considered luxuries in many countries?
Then do some real research. I highly recommend a secular book, Being There by Erica Komisar. It has a lot of research in it to back up her conclusions. She presents a more balanced approach about working versus staying at home than I have seen in other books (although I still believe she is not being totally honest about the needs of older children – possibly because of her own life choices). We really need to consider the impact of her research and start re-thinking how we advise Christians to parent.
If you have read this far, you are most likely a Christian. Urge your church or your fellow Christians to start talking about these important topics. If our kids are going to be the light in this world, they need a lot more practical, biblical adult guidance than many of them are currently receiving at home or in church.
Stretched Thin was given to me for free in exchange for my honest review. I purchased Being There. Affiliate links are included for your convenience.