I didn’t think it was what I wanted to do. I like working and enjoyed the years I spent in my twenties building a career.
I got a new job toward the end of my pregnancy, one that put me in the exact place I wanted to be in my field. My husband was excited to be a stay-at-home dad. We felt grateful to be able to choose to be a one-income family with an at-home parent.
Making this choice was pretty easy for our family. Our commitments to mutual submission and mutual respect made us feel good about this next step. In short, being egalitarians allowed us to pick the less common work-family dynamic without much thought beyond wanting to.
Then that job fell through.
In the aftermath, we tried to be intentional and wise about what came next. We found ourselves saying ‘no’ to opportunities that we would have expected to say ‘yes’ to. Many of those were chances for me to return to full time work.
We learned a new rhythm for our day-to-day lives with our infant son. We each had some contract work, and adjusted the schedule of any given day to get it done. Some days I worked seven hours. Some days I didn’t work at all.
Slowly, bit by bit, a sense crept over me: I wanted to stay home with my son.
Strangely, that desire was more difficult to say ‘yes’ to than the desire to start a new job with an eight-week-old at home. The job opportunity made me feel excited and engaged with my sense of calling. Motherhood and fatherhood are no less of a calling, and yet choosing to invest more ‘on the ground’ time in parenting felt a bit like a betrayal.
I have wanted to be a pastor since I was 12. I studied theology in college and then went to seminary, and I loved it. Before having a child, I felt solidarity with working moms and, honestly, little affinity with stay-at-home moms. In the end, being honest with myself won out – I wanted to be, gulp, a stay-at-home mom. At least for the next little while.
What should go without saying, but must be said, is that God invites each of us to honor Him with our lives. As parents, we prayerfully discern how to honor God in our parenting and what that means for our careers. There is no single correct answer for all mothers, or for all fathers. The point is to use our giftedness to serve Christ and His Kingdom – in our families, our churches, and our communities. And that fact is what helped me own what I wanted.
I became a stay-at-home mom precisely because I am an egalitarian.
Egalitarianism reminded me that there is no set path I have to take because of my gender. I just need to steward the life and gifts God has given me. If I do that while spending the bulk of my time at home, that is okay, just as it would have been in an office. I fear this may sound like I didn’t appreciate my husband’s desire to be home himself. It happens that being home alone with an infant didn’t fit him after all. Switching roles was another way we lived out the freedom to be ourselves and not conform to a gender-based mold.
I am new to being a stay-at-home mom, since our family made these choices just a few months ago. I am also still working on contract. But in reflecting on this transition I’ve noticed some myths that make it difficult for egalitarian women to feel at home, well, staying at home.
Myth: If you are a stay-at-home mom, you call your kids your ministry, and opt out of any other ministry settings.
Truth: Raising children is a ministry that mothers and fathers share equally; an extension of the family covenant begun in marriage. But everyone who follows Christ is also part of the family covenant begun at the table in the Upper Room. We have obligations to both families. Since God created them both, God will create avenues for both covenants to be honored in service. We don’t make an either/or choice between ministering to the nuclear and church families. It’s a both/and.
Myth: If you are a stay-at-home mom, you disengage from understanding your strengths and gifts and using them for the Kingdom of God.
Truth: I can point to a lot of stay-at-home moms who lean into their giftedness as much as any other believer. For some, the schedule flexibility even allows them to do things they couldn’t in a traditionally scheduled job. I can also point to stay-at-home moms who check out and claim being at home as an excuse. But there are Christians who check out all over the place, blaming their schedule or their job. This is not a ‘mom issue.’
The Kingdom of God is not created from an office any more than it is created from a pulpit or a living room. It is created in all places at all times by people who live out the love of Jesus in their words, attitudes, and actions. Putting a workplace on a pedestal as the place where “real ministry happens” is a damaging perspective that leads us away from lives of constant obedience.
Myth: Stay-at-home moms who claim to be egalitarians are just soft complementarians.
Truth: Perhaps some are. The problem is that this implies that egalitarianism prescribes work outside the home for women, not unlike the way rigid complementarianism or patriarchy prescribes homemaking. The great freedom of egalitarianism is that it prescribes nothing to men or women on the basis of their sex, and invites us instead to understand who God uniquely created a person to be. Then we help that person honor God with their life.
I realize now that believing these myths made me feel like choosing to be home might betray my theological training and sense of ministry calling. I also realize, in a way I didn’t before, that egalitarian theology brings freedom to all aspects of life together, not only in church, but also at home.
Your turn: Meredith points out that we have obligations to both our nuclear family and the Church-at-large. How do you balance these dual obligations in your own life?