When talking about the importance and necessity of stay-at-home moms, it is vital to make several distinctions. Young children grow and flourish best when their mothers don’t outsource their child-rearing. Does that mean that women cannot work, ever?
No, it doesn’t. What is does mean is that there are different seasons to a mother’s life, and different ways that a mom can work outside the home if she needs or wants to.
Let’s start with the feminist’s dream: a mother who “has it all,” and pursues both a high-profile, demanding career, and has children at the same time. As Bethany mentioned in her post, those sorts of jobs require many hours and much attention in the early years (usually corresponding to the years a woman can have children), as you’re trying to get your career started. Either you will outsource your work in the home (child-rearing, cooking, cleaning…), or you will put your career on the back burner to give your children a better upbringing. Trying to do both is detrimental for the mother, the father, and the children, and not what God intended.
But what about the mom who works part time? This is not nearly as pernicious, and can be done in several ways that don’t damage the family. As small children reach school-age, it is obviously much more possible for a mom to work during those hours. Not only will mom have more energy because her children are not in the demanding infant or toddler phase, but she will have the time when they are at school. I maintain that this is still not beneficial for the family, as it divides mom’s attention, and draws her away from her home. A mom who doesn’t work in this stage can give more energy and devotion to things that enrich her children’s elementary school years. She could also use these hours for works of mercy, such as volunteering in some organization, or helping out a younger mother who is still knee-deep in the infant and toddler years.
The third scenario is a mom who has grown children. (I do not include mostly-grown children in this scenario, because I have it on good authority that teenagers demand as much mental energy as toddlers demand physical energy). This is a better time for mom to work, while her attention would not be diverted from raising her own children. Her hours belong much more to herself, and she can choose to use them however she would like, taking care, of course, to make sure that she does not neglect her husband. I still maintain that she could also fill these hours with works of mercy, as above, that would benefit her local community and church. There are never enough hours in the day to give of yourself to those in need, and after your own children are out of the house, you have more energy to use to serve others.
There is a fourth type of working mom: a mother who does not work outside the home, but has some sort of home-based business. This sort of arrangement is much more do-able in the years with young children, as mom can set her own hours, and arrange her schedule to work when the children are napping, or at school as they get older, but still be able to attend to the cares of her household (Proverbs 31:27).This is a good option in years of necessity. I did this in my husband’s early years of grad school, when money was tight. I taught piano lessons from our home, teaching about 5-6 hours a week. It was enough to provide us with the extra income we needed, but was flexible enough that I could arrange my hours the way I needed to.
Here at e2s, we do not want to unilaterally condemn those who work. What we do want to do is make distinctions among working moms, and be honest about what effect that work has on yourself, your family, and your home. We want to fight the tide of feminism that glosses over the harm done to young children when their mothers are absent. Thank you to you, our readers, for giving us a place to do that.