I’m a stay-at-home-mom, but thinking about entering the workforce. Advice?

Member Question - Currently I’m a stay-at-home-mom, but have been thinking about taking a full-time job. Needless to say, it’s a tough decision for our family, but the LORD may be calling me to do this. What would be your advice for a person in my situation?[1]

As you know, the Bible does not give us a clear directive on whether a wife and mother should stay at home, enter the workforce, or manage both the home and an out-of-the-home job. While the Bible is clear on some things, it is not clear on every thing.

The Bible was not meant to be a rule book or a principle book. It’s a relationship book. All of our questions are answered in the context of relationships, which have a subjective element to them.

There is no one size fits all solution to your question. If the Bible were a rule book, you could easily turn to such and such page, scan down the list of rules, and find your answer.

The LORD does not operate this way. He wants us to search the Scriptures while engaging Him and others as we think about how to do life on earth. This makes biblical decision-making a relational adventure rather than a mechanical exercise. Exciting.

A woman entering the workplace is one of those things which the individual has to wrestle through, while thinking about her specific situation and relationships. You are not sinning to stay home and you’re not sinning to work outside the home.

For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. – Romans 14:23 (ESV)

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. – James 4:17 (ESV)

You’re only sinning if you do not do what you believe the LORD is calling you to do. I would appeal to you and your husband to watch my one hour webinar on the Member Site called, Biblical Decision Making.

This essential training will serve you guys as you think about this life-changing decision. Our kind LORD has presented you with an opportunity and a dilemma. This is one of the many things which makes Him so impressive.

This is like a dad who does not give the answer to his child’s question because he wants his daughter to mature through the decision-making process. The LORD wants you to wrestle through this decision which will, in part, strengthen your relationship with Him, your husband, and your children.

Below I have listed nine things which came to my mind as I prayed about your question. These things are not listed in a particular order as though one is more important than the other one.

All of them are important and as you think through them individually and then collectively, maybe the LORD will give you guys some clarity on a path forward. I appreciate you asking for advice.

Purposeful freedom

Sometimes the LORD will give you more than one option when it comes to decision-making and neither option is a sinful choice. An example of this is when a person is buying a car.

When we bought our van a few years ago, we narrowed it down to a Toyota and a Nissan. We believed either choice would be right for us and neither choice would be sinful.

This happens all the time. Biblical decision-making is not like an archer standing one hundred paces from his target with only one arrow in his quiver and he must hit the center ring or he will have less than God’s best.

This is not true on things which the Bible does not spell out in a black and white directive. Most certainly you should not commit adultery, steal, or lie (Exodus 20:13-16).

There is only one right answer for those kinds of decisions, but when it comes to buying a car or selecting your career, there can be more than one answer.

In such cases you are free to choose. The reason I’m saying this to you is because I want to release you from placing too much pressure on yourself. Be free. Relax. Embrace the process of making a decision.

What does your husband think?

Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety. – Proverbs 11:14 (ESV)

I know you’ve already done this and will continue to do this, but let me ask the obvious question: what does your husband think about you taking on a full-time job outside of your home? You guys are one flesh, so your decision is his decision and what he thinks matters to you, to God, and to him.

A husband and wife are not competing or separate entities. Like more than one part which makes up water, the husband and wife make up the one flesh union. What he thinks about this is important.

The reverse is also true. If he had a decision to make similar to this one, it’s imperative for you to chime in on the process. The other spouse’s input is only second to the LORD’s input because he knows you better than anyone else.

It’s also important you both be in faith for the decision you’re about to make. As with all big decisions something always goes wrong after the decision is made (Matthew 14:30). If you decide to work outside the home, something will go wrong.

If you decide to stay home, there will come a time when you will second guess that decision as well. This is how we are. Either something will go wrong or doubt will creep into our thinking.

This is one reason it’s imperative you and your husband are on the same page and in faith for whatever you guys decide. When something does go wrong, your husband will be there to cheer you on while reminding how you both believed this was the right thing to do.

The opposite of this is horrible. This is when things go wrong and the husband rubs the wife’s face in her decision. This happens too often with couples who do not work together on decisions as a one flesh team.

What does your pastor think?

For by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory. – Proverbs 24:6 (ESV)

While I’m stating the obvious here, let me ask this question too: what does your pastor think about you taking this job? He has a moral responsibility before God to care for you and your family (Hebrews 13:17).

Because you attend a larger church, maybe he does not know you as well. If this is true, then I would recommend someone who is pastoral and can bring spiritual and biblical wisdom to you guy’s decision making process.

Another set of eyes is humble and wise. Your spiritual leaders are for you and only want you to do well. Their perspective would be vital and will give you and your husband some things to ponder.

What do your friends think?

The third group of people you should consider asking are some of your friends. They can also bring you another perspective, maybe something you have not considered.

I would not recommend asking all your friends, but only certain ones. You want to ask those who have a good track record for coming alongside you and offering sound advice. I trust this is why you’re asking me. It’s humbling.

This may mean you do not ask your family. Being a family member is not the number one piece of criteria for seeking advice. In fact, too many times family can be a liability rather than an asset when asking them for advice.

You’re looking for friends who know the LORD, will give wise counsel, are not insecure, will speak objectively, and seek the LORD’s best more than yours or theirs.

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” – Matthew 16:21-22 (ESV)

Sometimes family members and friends can seek their best rather than God’s best. Peter is a good example of this. Though he was close to the LORD, he did not see things through the lens of the Gospel.

In this case his personal agenda and preferences interfered with sound decision-making. Fortunately Christ was not swayed by Peter’s corrupt opinions and appeals.

But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man. – Matthew 16:23 (ESV)

As you seek counsel from friends and family, it may take God-ordained courage and wisdom to not listen to them. If you and your husband are working together and you have the right pastoral advisors, you should be able to filter through poor guidance.

What is your motive?

The beauty of multiple counselors who have the courage and grace to say what needs to be said is it can guard you from impure motives. None of us have perfectly pure motives. We’re all deceived to a degree.

One of the things which can trip us up regarding our motives and big decisions is selfish ambition. This is a strong desire to achieve or attain something in order to feed our egos.

I think this is one of the strongest and most sinful appeals for men who want to go into the ministry. It’s not talked about enough and even if it were talked about, it’s hard to discern without good and grace-filled friends.

The person who is pursuing a goal needs to be honest about his/her motives for pursuing the goal. You have the opportunity to be in a position which will bring you a certain amount of praise and accolades.

I would recommend you spend time in prayer thinking through the more devious and plotting side of your depravity. The shadows of sin are always crouching at the door, waiting to derail us.

If you can admit to the subtle desire to receive what Gollum calls his precious then you’ll be okay. If you don’t see the temptation in your soul, then you’re not okay. You’re self-deceived.

I regularly talk to Lucia about the amount of power and fame which comes my way through my job. Though it’s small compared to others, it’s enough to sour my motives and take my eyes off the prize (Philippians 3:12).

Please talk about this openly and honestly with your spouse and your God. Invite both of them to engage your mind about your cravings, regardless of how small they appear to you.

Do you need the money?

I’ll not belabor this point, but only ask about the practical side of this decision. There are times when our decisions are made more from a utilitarian reason than anything else.

Single moms, divorce, husbands who are not providing for whatever reason, and unexpected debt are some of the things which can happen to all of us. If it’s a legitimate money issue, then your decision may already be made for you.

What did you believe God called you to do?

Years ago when you thought about marriage, what did you believe God wanted you to be in your marriage? What were you in faith for when you were married? Why did you marry your husband?

Was it your dream to be a housewife? What about children? Was it your dream to be a stay-at-home mom? Did you believe God called you to be a stay-at-home-mom for a season of your life?

These are important questions. If you believed God called you to be married, be a mom, and stay at home, then what has changed? Why did it change? How has it changed?

Why are you considering leaving the home? Are you running from something? What is motivating this decision at this point in your marriage and mothering?

What do you believe God has made you to do–to be? What is best for your family? What is best for your children? How will taking this job fulfill your hopes for your children?

You can change your mind

Don’t put yourself in a corner to where you believe you can’t change your mind after you make a decision. This is not a Rubicon situation. While there may be some decisions which we cannot retreat from after we make them, this is not one of them.

You’re not getting married. You’re thinking about taking a job. Let’s say you sought all the advice you could and made the best decision you could make. Then you take the job only to find out it was not the right decision. It happens.

What does the Spirit say?

You do what the Spirit is telling you to do. After you engage God, your husband, your spiritual authorities, your friends, and your heart, then do what you believe God is calling you to do.

Enjoy the relational freedom and God-given power to make decisions for your good and His glory. I’m excited for you. I will pray, asking the Father to give you clarity so you can step out in faith, whether that means staying at home or taking the job.

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  1. [1] Due to the amount of email traffic I receive on a daily basis I can only answer questions from our Members–those who support our ministry–which are asked through our Community Forum. Occasionally I will take a Member question and turn it into one of my 2000 word daily articles.
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About Rick Thomas

Rick is an author, speaker, consultant, and podcaster. He has been training in the Upstate of South Carolina since 1997. After several years as a counselor and pastor he founded and launched his own training organization in order to encourage and equip people for more effective living. In the early ’90’s he earned a BA in Theology. He then earned a BS in Education. In 1993 he was ordained into Christian ministry and in 2000 he graduated with a MA in Counseling. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow with ACBC. Today his organization reaches people around the world through consulting, training, writing, and speaking.
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