The Secret, Silent Bleeding of a Working Mother's Heart

After being married for nineteen years, I had to go back to work. We had moved to Illinois for Ray to teach at a seminary. We thought we could make it financially in our expensive Chicago suburb if we were frugal. We downsized our house and limited the six of us to one car to keep costs down. I substituted in area schools, tutored, and taught piano lessons. Ray supplemented our income with speaking and writing.

But after a few months it became obvious that the basic needs of our family were exceeding our income. What should we do? We hated to disrupt our children who were just settling into their new school and neighborhood. The choice was clear: either move once again, or I must bring in a regular paycheck. Through prayers, advice, and even some tears, I took a second grade teaching position in the public school. I tell you this to let you know I have been on both sides—a stay-at-home mom and a go-to-work mom with four active, needy children. 

It is an illusion that a woman can achieve career success without sacrificing to some degree the daily personal care of her home and her young children. I was torn because I couldn’t give 100 percent to both callings, and both our home and my career suffered to some extent. I experienced what many of you working mothers have agonized over—the secret, silent bleeding of a working mother’s heart, with all the accompanying guilt and exhaustion and divided loyalties.

The question isn’t whether a woman should work outside her home. Lydia was a “seller of purple goods” (Acts 16:14). Aquila and Priscilla were in business together (Acts 18:3). The Bible certainly doesn’t say women can’t work. But it does make it clear that women are to make their homes a top priority.

If you are working outside your home, give as much to your job as duty requires, working “as to the Lord” (Eph. 6:5–8). But remember you are only “tent making” (see Acts 18:1–4). Your first and greatest ministry is to those under your roof. Think of Paul’s clear and compelling advice to older women: “Train the younger women to love their husbands and children . . . working at home” (Titus 2:3–5). Someone in your family needs to consider the home as a career.

The Bible clearly affirms the importance of domestic devotion. Proverbs 31 shows a woman using her skills and creativity day and night to build a shelter for those she loves and to free her husband to fulfill God’s call on his life, even as she engages in business outside her home. Let your marriage, your children, your home be your primary calling. The gratification of the marketplace will never compare to the joy of building a godly home. Yes, there will be days when you feel overwhelmed, lonely, unappreciated, and unrecognized. But no one can replace you as you “look well to the ways of your household” (Prov. 31:27).

Let’s be biblical in how we approach our home duties. Let’s give the gift of attention to those we love most. The formation and maintenance of a stable, godly home honors God. It can be our greatest contribution to society at large and a deep source of personal satisfaction. Your home is eternally significant. 

In what area is it hardest for you to surrender to your call as a woman? Why? How can you go to a deeper level of trust in God with this struggle? Who and what receive the most productive hours and freshest energies of your days? How can you adjust your commitments so your family receives the best you can give them?

About the Author

Jani Ortlund

Jani Ortlund

Jani Ortlund is the Executive Vice President of Renewal Ministries. Serving Jesus through writing, speaking, and discipling are her chief passions in life. Jani and her husband Ray, Pastor of Immanuel Church, have four married children and fifteen grandchildren and … read more …

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