Tuesday, April 17, 2012

To Work? Or Not to Work?

I’m sorry, but I have to weigh in on Hilary Rosen’s comment about Ann Romney. It has touched a nerve with me and, hey, why have a blog if one can’t use it as a platform every now and then?


I get it. Maybe that’s not what she meant, but it sure is what she said.

“She hasn’t worked a day in her life.”

It may have been a commentary on Ann Romney’s lack of experience in the field of economics, but still, the comment packed a punch.

Why? Why would that statement create such a firestorm among women and men, liberals and conservatives? Why is this issue of stay-at-home moms so electrifying?

Because the decision to stay at home with our children or to spend time working outside the home is an intensely personal decision, and when someone makes a comment, even a seemingly innocent one, that attacks that personal decision, it hurts. Deeply.

There are a thousand different ways I could go with this blog post, but I only want to say this, especially to my many friends who are just now learning to navigate the tricky waters of motherhood and working and family life: there is no right or wrong way to work out your own family.

Don’t misunderstand me: there are rights and wrongs in this world—the Bible makes it very clear on those issues. And the Bible gives us definite guidelines for our families.

But we Christians—and I am speaking to those of us who claim Christianity right now—sometimes put some extra parameters to those guidelines set forth in the Bible.  It’s like we want to add an 11th commandment: “your family shall look just like mine.”

In my lifetime I have heard things like, “You really should have more than X number of kids.” Or “You really should only have two children, then stop having kids.” Or “If you don’t breastfeed your children you’re not doing what’s best for them.” Or “If you don’t send your children to [insert type of school here] school you’re not doing the most you can do for your kids.”

And it goes on and on. The judging.

I’m guilty of it too. It’s something I pray about regularly.

But truly, I believe this, there is no right or wrong way to work out your family. If there were, God would have told us exactly how to do it. But he left some things intentionally hazy, probably so we could learn a thing or two about ourselves and about Him while we were working out how to do family life.

In the 20-plus years that I’ve been a mother I have . . .

-       stayed home full time.
-       worked outside the home part-time.
-       worked from home.
-       volunteered, a lot.
-       thought that having two kids was just perfect.
-       changed my mind about two kids.
-       wondered what kind of mom I’d be to four kids (probably not that great).
-       breastfed my baby (only one, and not for long).
-       bottle-fed, happily.
-       allowed my children to eat junk food.
-       gave them vegetables occasionally.
-       put my kids in preschool.
-       put my kids in regular school.
-       wondered if I’m doing any of this right.

My list probably looks very different from your list. And you know what? That’s O.K.!

What’s wrong is for anyone to look down on your list or mine for the choices we’ve made. And that’s my beef with Hilary Rosen. There’s just too much second-guessing the choices we women make in our lives, and Hilary Rosen simply added fuel to the judgmental fire.

Last week I talked with a friend who will be leaving for the mission field soon. She and her husband and two sons will be living in a place with one of the highest costs of living in the world (I can’t imagine having to raise the kind of support they are trying to raise!). To help supplement their income, my friend has applied for a job, but she told me she’s worried about her two young sons. Will they be O.K. if she works? (Her husband will be available to spend time with the youngest each afternoon.) What will people think?

I told her this: “There is no right or wrong here. Pray, and God will make it clear what you need to do.”

Friends, we need to release ourselves and each other from our own pre-conceived ideas of what’s right and wrong for our families.

-  Whether a mom works outside the home or chooses to stay home full time for 25 years is not a right or wrong issue.
-  Whether a family chooses to have two children or twenty is not a right or wrong issue.  
-  Whether the father stays home with the kids while the mom goes to work is not a right or wrong issue.

God is ultimately in control of our families. Let’s let Him decide how they should look. Seek Him, look to His approval, and focus on His ultimate glory and I promise you, your family will be blessed.

O.K., spill it. I'd love to know your thoughts. Leave me a comment! 


  1. That's wisdom, Shelly. Bravo! Well said. Now, would you be interested in running for office. ; )

  2. I like the freedom to try lots of things at different stages of our family life. Parenting/marriage etc. has a lot of trial and error.

    I like any way that we can support each other and our decisions ... it is a crazy world out there. We need each other.

  3. Ha! Beverly, I'll leave running for office to my daughter. :)

    Love that, Glenda. You are so right.

  4. Great advice and perfect timing for me as I seek God's wisdom for my role right now. I'm in the midst of questions now that my girls are all in school, such as...do I seek full-time employment or stay part-time, how much do I volunteer, etc??? As you know, the list goes on and on. Thankful for our freedom in Christ and praying that I'm a good listener to His calling for me.

  5. I think the most important part of your post is that we should not be judging each other. It is not for us to say whether someone's decisions are right or wrong. We have no idea what is happening in that person's life or family.

    Yet these days, the media does nothing but judge others' decisions. It makes the perfect headline -- judging someone's weight, their addictions, what they do for a living, what they do with their money. Plain and simple, it's none of our business. We should all just be concentrating on living the best life we can and not question what others are doing.

    Also ... although I don't comment on each of your blog posts, Shelly, I love every one of them. You have a wonderful writing style, so easy and conversational. It's as if we are sitting having a cup of coffee and you are speaking to me personally. Love your blog!

  6. p.s. I thought my post showed my name. mf1111 is me, Shelly, Marie Furrh.

  7. Right on Shelly.

  8. Well said. I think the most annoying thing about "the comment" by Ms. Rosen was that she inferred that a stay at home mom is completely unaware and uneducated about important economic and political policy and such.

    Moms have their hand on the pulse of the country whether they work outside the home or not.

  9. Marie!! So great to know that you're here on a regular basis. I love knowing that you're reading!

    Monica, it does take a lot of listening to figure out what's right for your family. I think that's one of the keys.

  10. Aah, there we go. Couldn't comment earlier.

    I have homeschooled my kids for the last dozen years, and at the beginning, I remember feeling more pressure (mostly from family) about the homeschooling aspect than the fact that I wasn't working. Then I got a summertime camp job & a part-time church job during the school year. Those are the things that worked for our family.

    This year, our son began public school, and our daughter will begin next year -- and you should hear the comments I'm receiving and the assumptions people are making. As if my life has no value unless I'm working outside of the home.

    My intention IS indeed to find some kind of work. In this economy, I can't rationalize staying home with no kids... but still... I wish people would keep their thoughts to themselves!

    What an honor it has been for me to stay at home, and be the primary influence in our kids lives -- as well as to take care of our home, and make it a welcoming place for my sweet hubby to come home to. I don't think that either of those things is w/o value.

    Dear Moms: Whatever the plan that works for YOUR family... I salute you. Keep on keeping on.

    And Shelly, thank you for your timely thoughts! ~Sally

  11. Shelly! Such valuable reminders! So hard to find the balance of what works for you and your family, let alone while trying to weigh the criticisms or judgments of others (or while criticizing or judging myself!) Love your thoughts as always. Starting to look forward to Tuesdays already. :)

  12. Thanks for weighing in, Sally. And best of luck to your kids--they will be fine.

    The pressure is on, I guess, huh Beth?! Thanks! :)

  13. What a great discussion, Shelly! I love being home with my girls, and wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. I'm so thankful that my husband can provide enough for us so that I can be at home. There are so many women who long to be home but can't because of finances. However, I have frequently been asked the ever-popular "what do you do?" question, with an awkward silence or "oh" when told I'm a SAHM, as if my choice is too old fashioned or that I'm not contributing to society. (enter my own judgmental thoughts...repent *sigh*)
    I think about the Proverbs 31 woman, who is at home raising her children and works very hard from home. Her husband publicly praises her and her children rise and call her blessed. Home is definitely where my heart is.

  14. Shelly, thank you for
    being BRAVE enough
    to bring up a hot topic.
    My mom gave up a
    career to stay home with
    me and my brother and
    there isn't a more informed
    person out there, so that
    shoots Ms. Rosen's theory,
    right there. Second, she
    was wrong ~ Mrs. Romney
    did, indeed, earn a paycheck
    before becoming a mom.
    Furthermore, she did her
    job ~ raising their children ~
    with M.S. and later, with
    cancer. She is also a tireless
    volunteer and through their
    foundation has helped to
    improve thousands of lives.
    Would the world have been
    better served if she had
    chosen to work? Would her
    children? As you say, that
    is a very PERSONAL decision,
    and until we have the ability
    to walk in another's shoes,
    we shouldn't judge.....

    xx Suzanne

  15. Yes, ma'am. I agree with you. Absolutely.

    But here's the thing: I had to learn to agree with you. In my younger days, back when I was going to be the perfect mother with practically perfect children, I honestly thought that it was my responsibility to enlighten other people that their choices were wrong.

    Dear God, forgive me. I was the one who was wrong.

    The older I get, the more I think that what God really, really wants from us is humble hearts. There are, of course, some things that He makes very clear. But many, many decisions He leaves to us. I think that's partly because He is powerful enough to redeem even when we mess things up. He wants us to trust Him enough to make our own decisions in light of the fact that He is Lord, not that He is dictator.

    One thing that Jesus makes pretty clear? That we have no business judging one another. Thanks for the clarion call to refrain from that!

  16. Life is full of choices to make - some easy, and some really tough. I think the biggest lesson I've learned is not to judge (when you point the finger at someone, you have 3 pointing back at you!) but to try to understand and empathize. My husband has given up a good deal of his free-lance business to homeschool our kids for reasons that I won't be stating publicly. He is the best choice for this on so many levels, and I just have the deepest love, respect, and admiration for him. When Christ is truly our centre, our perspective shifts & then the nasty judgement part goes out the window. We, as the body, need to support each other in prayer & in what we do. And don't do.

  17. Go Shelly!
    I would just add one comment and that is in reference to the, "pray and God will make it clear what you need to do" and that is to add
    "or God will make it clear that he really doesn't mind either way what you do as long as you are loving God and loving others, so it may not be clear at all and you might have to use the head and heart God gave you to decide your self!... such freedom. colette

  18. Oh Colette, I love that so much! . . . and you! :)

  19. great thoughts! ~ i so agree that there isn't a right or wrong way.. it's for every family to decide on their own.

    whether you work outside the home or not, mothering is the hardest job out there!! :)

    it's better for us as women to cheer each other on, instead of comparing to those around us.

    thanks for posting this. reminding us that God doesn't deal with us like assembly line.. it's individual and personal!

  20. I so appreciated this post. If I can ever get myself back into blogging, I want to link to it. Just want to walk with God and do what pleases Him.
    I love how you write. It encourages others. You encourage others! Thankful for you.