This Little Mommy Went to Market, This Little Mommy Stayed Home
I cuddled my two-year-old in my arms, smothering him with kisses. In between my squeezes, I could feel baby number two kicking away inside my rounded tummy. "There's no greater joy than God's gift of children," I thought to myself. My son, Andrew, and I were having a fun morning together, and I felt in a particularly mushy-mommy-mood. I couldn't, at that moment, imagine why any mother would choose to leave her precious children to the care of someone else so she could work outside the home.
Then suddenly, like the shrill cry of a baby awakening Mom from a blissful night's sleep, a thought jolted me to my senses. (I think it was the Holy Spirit.) "Hey, wait a minute, Elizabeth! Who do you think you are passing judgment on the other mothers of the world? Just because some mothers work outside the home, does that mean that they love their children any less?" Of course not, I admitted to the Lord.
So why all this hype and competition over "working moms" vs "stay-at-home" moms? I dislike the titles that society is doling out to us. Are we on the battlefield? Are we really that different from one another? And as Christian mothers, what should our attitudes be?
Soon after my son, Andrew, was born, several young moms in the neighborhood formed a share group where we met once a week to eat lunch, talk about kids and reflect on the Lord. One woman came a few times, then quit attending the group. We found out that she had started working part-time. Although she still would have been able to meet with us, she chose not to because she felt judged and condemned for going back to work, even though her family desperately needed the money. We had said nothing critical to her, but evidently our attitudes had communicated loud and clear, "You have made a poor choice. You should have stayed home." I look back on that incident and cringe. How could we have been so uncaring and judgmental?
After all, I know how it feels to be judged. Here in France, the not-so-subtle message to young moms is "You are foolish if you don't continue your career after you have children." Recently, I registered Andrew for preschool. When the director asked my profession, I replied that I work at home with my kids. This woman gave me a look of pity and then contempt, as she scribbled under the category for "mother's work" the letters "SP" which stand for "No profession." I felt like a sign had been hung on my back, saying, "I am worthless."
The Injustice of Judgment
When we are judged unfairly, it cuts us to the core and leaves our self-image deflated and hurting. We moms bristle when we are criticized because the insinuation is that we aren't doing a good job at the very thing we care about most: mothering our kids.
Robertson McQuilkin, past president of Columbia Bible College and Seminary in Columbia, S.C., used to remind the student body frequently that "it is easier to go to a consistent extreme than to stay in the center of biblical tension." I believe that this can apply to the "mommy" issue too. It is easier to lump all the working moms in one category and all the home-based moms in another and then draw up generalizations and judgments about each group. In reality, each of us is different with a unique set of circumstances, responsibilities and gifts.
The Poison of Comparison
Every mom has her own opinions and beliefs about child-rearing. My concern is that too many of us moms are living out our roles while feeling guilt, jealousy or self-righteousness about our situation. Whatever our thoughts, our attitudes could be a real source of tension and even danger. As I reflect on what seems to be turning into a "mommy battle", I am reminded of what Jesus said to Peter at the end of the Gospel of John.
Jesus has just asked Peter three times if he loves Him. Three times Peter has replied "Yes, Lord, you know I do." To which Jesus responds with a specific charge: "Feed my sheep." Afterwards Jesus calls Peter to "Follow me!"
Then comes my favorite part because I see myself written all over the page. Peter turns around, and seeing John behind him, says, "Lord, and what about this man?"
And Jesus' classic reply is, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me."
So simple, so straightforward. Every time I read this passage, the Spirit tugs at my heart and says, "Get the message? DON'T COMPARE! Don't compare yourself with any other human; just follow me. Obey me. The course I have charted out for you is not like anyone else's. If you are busy looking around at other people, you will soon grow restless, proud, jealous or angry. Just follow me."
I am so thankful for these verses in Scripture. As humans, we will always have a tendency to compare ourselves with others. Society puts added pressure on us to make sure we measure up with whatever is the fad of the moment. Jesus understands our tendencies. He lived among us. He was often compared to John the Baptist, Old Testament prophets and even Roman officials. But He was not detoured from His task: to glorify His Father and bring men to salvation. He is our example of the perfect man who fulfilled the desires of God, His Father.
The Call to Obedience
Of course, we are not perfect. But as Christian mothers, we ought to be emulating our Master instead of bickering over who's better, the career mom or the homemaker mom. Our business is to obey the Lord in our present circumstances. We should examine our situation based on God's Word, not on society's standards or as a result of pressure from other Christians. As we humbly come before Him, He will show us where our attitudes and actions need changing.
Perhaps He will point out that we are putting too much value on material things for ourselves and our children. Or maybe we will realize that we are hiding behind our children instead of reaching out to minister to others. The difficult, but essential question we must ask the Lord is, "Father, am I being obedient to You? You understand my circumstances, my family's needs, my desires for my kids. Help me see where I should change things so that I can glorify You in every area of my life."
Furthermore, comparison with others often leads to sinful behaviors like envy, pride and guilt. We need to recognize our sin and confess it, asking the Lord to give us the grace to choose daily not to judge another's situation. We never know when our circumstances may change, and we may find ourselves in the "other mother's" shoes.
As we allow the Lord to remove our sinful behaviors, He will open up new avenues for us to listen to other moms. Often, when we understand their hurts, the walls of envy, pride and guilt come down and in their place, we feel a bond and a desire to pray for one another.
We Need Each Other
As Christian mothers, we need each other for support and practical help as we face the ever increasing demands of raising a family in the nineties. How can we encourage another mom if we're busy condemning her lifestyle or seething on the inside from jealousy? Our attitudes should communicate love, compassion and concern for the mothers around us, no matter what their situations are. Also, we who know Christ have many opportunities to minister to those moms who don't know Him--whether they are in our neighborhood or the workplace.
Doing a Good Job
The truth is that, by and large, we Christian women are very conscientious about our role as mothers and Christians. We are doing a good job. No, we don't always agree with each other. But as we take the log out of our own eye, we can call a truce to the "mommy battle," lay down our arms of comparison and reach out with arms of compassion and love.
Andrew is sitting in my lap, smelling so baby-fresh-clean after his bath. As I playfully dry him off, I grab his toes and begin the piggy rhyme. "This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed home..." My mind makes up another rhyme somewhat similar, "This little mommy went to the marketplace, this little mommy stayed home, this little mommy knew Jesus, but this little mommy was alone, so these little mommies cried 'Lord, show us what to do, whether at work or at home.'" The mushy-mommy-mood returns as I tuck Andrew into bed and whisper, "I love you very, very much." Just like all the other mommies of the world.
Points to Ponder:
1) Am I judging a sister because her situation is different from mine?
2) Do I feel guilty or proud, instead of humble, about my present situation?
3) Am I seeking to obey God, or is something or someone else dictating my decisions?
4) How can I best glorify the Lord in my present circumstances? Do I need to change something--attitude, schedule, etc.?
5) Who can I reach out to (a hurting mom) where I am?
Elizabeth Goldsmith Musser, c1991
This was my first published article and appeared in Jill Briscoe’s magazine for ministry wives, Just Between Us, in 1991