Working mothers at home | Tomorrow's World

Working mothers at home

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Only in the last century or two has the matter of mothers – and even fathers – working outside the home become an issue. Before that, everyone was in the "workforce"– at home.

As the "Reader's Companion to American History" says: "In pre-industrial society, nearly everybody worked and almost no one worked for wages. The home, whether tipi, log cabin, or spacious house was the center of production – the place where food, clothing, and furnishings were created" ("Women in the Workforce," Houghton Mifflin College Division website,

In the typical household of centuries past, everyone contributed to the "economy" of the home. "Among the European colonists, a division of labor by sex, though common, was not rigid. Women's efforts usually focused on work in and around the house, but it was not unusual for a woman to help plow or pitch hay. Similarly, men spent twilight hours alongside their wives at the loom, and throughout the eighteenth century, both boys and girls were trained to spin and weave" (ibid.).

Only in recent history, with the Industrial Revolution, has the necessity of fathers working away from home arisen. And, in recent decades, more mothers are working outside as well. In 1900, 5.3 million American women held jobs in the labor market. By 2002, that figure had increased more than 12 times, to 65 million women ("Women in the Workforce: Facts about Working Women," Center for Women and Work, Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations).

But increasingly, many mothers are beginning to look at alternatives. The pressures of balancing work, marriage, and family are making some mothers conclude that working outside the home may not be a very good option. Support groups like The National Association of At-Home Mothers, Mothers and More, the MOMS Club, and others have sprung up to lend help for mothers who are not satisfied with working away from their family.

The financial costs of working outside the home, for a growing number of stay-at-home mothers (or "SAHMs"), is also simply not worth it. In his recent article, Eric Frazier explains: "One recent study from the N.C. Justice Center in Raleigh shows that in North Carolina, families with two adults and two children living in metropolitan areas spend 26 percent of their monthly budget on child care… When some young families add a second or third child, they quickly conclude it's cheaper to keep one parent home than to pay the hefty child-care bills" ("Day Care's High Cost," Charlotte Observer, February 21, 2006). One estimate points out that a $25,000 a year salary is reduced to about $6,050 – or $2.91 per hour – when all the expenses of staying employed are taken out. ("Cost of being a stay-at-home mom: $1 million," M.P. Dunleavy,

What's the point? Did God ever intend for the parents – both father and mother – to be disconnected from their offspring for the bulk of their waking hours week after week? Malachi 2:15 explains that one of the purposes of the family is to produce godly offspring. But how can fathers and mothers teach their children if they are never around them? In Deuteronomy 6:6 God commanded the children of Israel (parents) to teach their children "when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up."

Jesus Christ is coming soon, to establish His kingdom on earth. What will His newly-designed society and economy look like? It will be built around the family and the home – instead of being disconnected from the home. Under His direction, fathers and mothers will all have a pivotal role in the growth and rearing of their children. And mothers will carry huge responsibility in the management and economy of the home, as Proverbs 31 shows. And fathers, as primary breadwinners (Genesis 3:19) will be fully supportive of their wife's efforts to fulfill her primary, God-given responsibility as a "keeper of the home" (Titus 2:5).

While we don't yet live in Christ's perfect world, more and more mothers today are finding simply staying at home to be a more practical and acceptable alternative for rearing stable, healthy, and godly children.