What It Means to Train Our Children

affection-1866868_1280

“Put your shoes on,” I instructed my 2-year-old, as I watched her rip off her shoes and toss them on the ground. I had taken my two youngest children to the playground to play while their sister was at her dance class, and my toddler had decided upon arrival that she didn’t need her shoes. In my haste to get the kids out the door, I had not put socks on her, and she expressed her distaste at having to run around in shoes with no socks.

However sweaty her feet might have been, I wanted her to keep her shoes on because I did not want her to step on a rock or stub a toe or get her feet dirty. Therefore, I patiently put her in my lap, velcroed her shoes on, and sent her down the slide another time. However, just a few moments later, she took her shoes off and again ran away from with me a laugh. I repeated my instruction to her and put her shoes on for the third time.

After I had placed her shoes on her feet yet again, she scampered off and played for a few moments, and I talked to another mom at the playground. Not even two minutes later, I noticed her shoes discarded once more by the fence and my daughter running around barefoot. As I was in the middle of a conversation and I didn’t feel like battling with my daughter at the moment, I chose not to address her disobedience. My toddler ran around in her bare feet, delighted that she had been able to get her own way.

Later, I reflected on the fact that I should have held the line with her on her shoes. Would it have been a big deal for her to run around barefoot outside? Probably not. However, what was a big deal is that I had asked to keep them on and she had deliberately defied me. If I was going to make a request of her, I needed to follow up if she disobeyed me and ensure that she listen to my instructions.

Training Our Children

Throughout the day, we will frequently have moments, such as the one I described with my youngest daughter, where we need to enforce a boundary, address a habit or pattern of behavior, and instruct our child in a particular situation about the correct way to behave. However, we may not immediately engage in discipline of our child because we may be distracted by other tasks, overwhelmed by the behavior to the point that we have no idea how to address it, afraid of the reaction we might receive from the child, or indifferent to the child’s bad behavior. However, the Bible tells us that we need to view such moments as teachable opportunities and use those to train and mold our child.

Proverbs 22:6 (ESV) says: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” The word “train” here means in the Hebrew not only “to train,” but also “to dedicate.” Essentially, what it means to effectively parent our children is to dedicate or consecrate a child to God and teach a child to know God and walk in His ways.

In addition, as the Pulpit Commentary explains, “train” in Hebrew also means to “put something into the mouth,” “to give to be tasted.” In other words, the type of training or “dedicating” the passage speaks of is to introduce or initiate the child to a particular way of living in regards to Christian values. By introducing them to this “taste,” just as a child grows accustomed to a particular food and desires that food because it is familiar to them, he will also grow accustomed to the ways of God if he is shown this way when he is young.

We should also observe that the proverb says we are to train up a child “in the way he should go.” The actual wording in Hebrew is “in his way.” As theologian Albert Barnes notes, this is “according to the tenor of his way, i. e., the path especially belonging to, especially fitted for, the individual’s character.” Therefore, while this certainly means the way that he should go in terms of Christian values, this isn’t a way that is rigidly determined without carefully studying and getting to know the child. This means that we are to take into account the unique temperament and gifts of the child and also consider this child’s future possibilities, directing a child in the best way for him to go after observing these qualities in the child and continually praying about how to best direct him.

What Happens When We Don’t Train Our Children?

Such training of our children, as the proverb speaks of, seems obvious enough: youths need training and parents should provide it. However, as our society seeks to erase God and Christian values, we see an increasing contempt for authority and boundaries, including parental authority within the home.

Instead of receiving training from their parents, children in many homes today are encouraged to do as they please and follow their own whims and fancies. However, the passage is clear that young people need to be shown the correct way — and the idea is implied that without this instruction, they will go down the wrong path.

Elsewhere in Proverbs, we see this same idea of the dangers of not instructing our children. Proverbs 29:15 tells us, “A rod and reprimand impart wisdom, but a child left undisciplined disgraces its mother.” Some translations read that a child “left to himself” or “left alone” disgraces his mother. The NAS says “a child who gets his own way” is one that “brings shame” or disgraces his mother. What stands out to me in each of these translations is that a child who brings disgrace to his mother is one who is simply left to do what he wants and go his own way.

Similarly, Proverbs 19:18 says, “Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death.” The NLT translation says that a lack of discipline of our children with “ruin their lives,” or, as the GNT says, “[help] them destroy themselves.”

The wording is incredibly strong here and essentially tells us that we are signing a “death sentence” for our children when we don’t discipline them. Children that are not taught the ways of God will ruin their own lives with their choices — and they may not even discover their own error until it is too late. Or, even if they are able to turn to the right way as adults, they may have the consequences of years of bad choices that they have to still live with that could have been avoided. Likewise, Proverbs 13:24, says, “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.”

While our society increasingly advocates that young people simply go the way that they want to in appearance, attitude, sexuality, gender — you name it, the Word of God is clear on the point that young people should not be left to govern themselves, but rather, be brought up in the instruction and training of the Lord.

Training Has Benefits for Not Only Children, But Parents

When we give our children a “taste” of the right path early on, this training not only has benefits in keeping our children from going down the wrong path and harming themselves, the proverb tells us that this training also has benefits for us as parents: when he is old, he will not “depart from it.” Similarly, Proverbs 29:17 says, “Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire.”

When we take the time to discipline our children, we don’t have to worry about our kids growing up and getting into trouble as adults or making us look bad or turning away from the right path because they are still walking in the training they learned in their youth. In contrast to the “disgrace” that will fall on us if we leave our children to train themselves, parents of disciplined children will be able to enjoy the fruits of their hard work when their children are older.

However, the discipline described is not a harsh discipline where parents go on a power trip or misuse parental authority (Ephesians 6:4). We do so in a loving way with an end goal of instilling in them the right habits and qualities. In addition, the proverb does not guarantee that training of a child will produce a child who sticks to the right way. Children will grow up and have to make their own choices as to how they live, and some will turn away from what is right. However, a child who does turn from the right way will find it hard to do so, as they have been introduced to what is right.

Conclusion:

When I was doing some study on Proverbs 22:6 to write this article, I ran across a statement that stopped me in my tracks: If we don’t teach our kids, someone else will. If we aren’t taking the time to teach our children intentionally about the ways of God and how to live life, they will learn how to live from TV shows, from neighbors, from teachers — and the habits and values they pick up may not necessarily be Christian values. In fact, they probably won’t. Note what the Sermon Commentary says on this point:

Children are not only capable of training, but they will be trained in spite of us. And if we do not take them in hand, and with a very definite end in view, which we pursue with inflexible purpose and unflagging constancy — an end not lower than heaven, not narrower than eternity, and not meaner than their salvation — another process will assuredly be going on which ere long fills us with dismay. We must know that children are always at school, even when they seem to be away from it.

As a teacher, I got to observe first-hand the impact of young people left to train themselves or simply learn from others around them. The link between poor home lives and poor performance at school was undeniable. Generally speaking, my most out-of-control students had little parental involvement, chaos in their homes — and no one who was looking out for their well-being and/or guiding them.

Of course, I had cases of young people from good homes that got into trouble as well, but the difference between how these cases were handled and how the cases of the students with poor home lives were handled was quite different. If a young person was from a stable home environment, I would usually be able to get in touch with the parent and receive a reply right away. Although each case was unique, generally speaking, the parent would express concern, implement strategies within the home to remedy the problem, and work with me to correct the problem.

On the flip side, if a parent was from a home with uninvolved parents, I would oftentimes have difficulty reaching the parent. The parent would appear unconcerned or too busy to deal with the problem. If the parent was concerned, often no follow-up action would happen to correct the behavior and the behavior would continue. In some cases, the parent would get angry that I had bothered him or express displeasure with me or the school for interrupting his day — as if the school was somehow the problem!

The Word of God does not lie. It has been given to us for our instruction (1 Timothy 3:16; Proverbs 1:1-5). As parents, we can be wise and take the opportunities now to mold and train our children, or we can take the route of least resistance and not correct our children — but the Word of God warns how this route will turn out. Although it might be initially easier and less painful not to engage in the hard work of training and guiding our children, such a path will lead to pain and heartache for us later down the road.

We won’t be perfect parents. If we haven’t done what we should on our parenting journey, we can turn around and start now. In addition, God doesn’t leave us to parent our children alone. He is with us every step of the way to help, strengthen, and encourage us — when we get tired and worn out and feel like we can’t go another step (Psalm 18:32; Psalm 27:14; Isaiah 40:29-31).

However, the proverb emphasizes that when we choose to shape and direct our children in the right way — we do the will of God and will enjoy our kids and family life as we grow older because we will be able to look and see the positive results that come out of the investment of our hard work and time into the lives of our children.

Related Resources:

Ever feel unappreciated or worthless as a mom? This is Part 3 in the series “Motherhood: Joys, Challenges, and Trials.” Check out Part 1: “Why Your Work as a Stay-at-Home Mom Matters” and Part 2: “Your High and Holy Calling as a Mom.”

Don’t have much time to read, but would like to hear articles in podcast form? Check out our podcast archive for a complete listing of podcast episodes.

*Updated May 16, 2019.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

More Posts

Your High and Holy Calling as a Mom

happy-2681243_1280

When I was growing up, my family took a two-week camping trip along the Oregon coast, and we visited many scenic parks and landmarks — including several beautiful lighthouses.

While these lighthouses were no longer functioning lighthouses, but had been turned into tourist destinations, I was enchanted by the idea of a lighthouse warning ships away from the rocks, helping captains pilot their crafts into safe waters.

The Job of Lighthouse Keepers

Due to electricity, most lighthouses are now automated, but back in the day, a lighthouse keeper had to light the lamps punctually at dusk each night and keep them lit throughout the night. Just to get to the top of a lighthouse, a keeper had to ascend a flight of steep steps. Some of the tall lighthouses may have had as many as 200 steps! Note what I discovered about this process of lighting the lamps in reading about a particular lighthouse called Sea Girt Lighthouse* in New Jersey:

Preparations for lighting the beacon began well before dusk. The keeper first inspected the Fresnel lens and its many prisms, which were cleaned that morning. The lamp that produced the light was checked and the supply of fuel refilled. The wick was trimmed and lighted. The weights, which dropped down the tower shaft driving gears that caused the lens to revolve, were unlocked, hand cranked up to the top and a new descent started.

To ensure lamps did not go out, keepers had to check the lights at intervals during the night. On stormy nights, they had to continuously ensure the light was beaming.

Keepers lived at the lighthouse and worked seven days a week. They were not only responsible for lighting the lamps, cleaning the lamps, and maintaining the lighthouse, they also had to take weather readings and document these, as well as maintain the house and grounds of the light stations. Keepers had to work through blizzards, hurricanes, and other storms — putting their own lives in danger for others. They also had to be prepared to respond to emergency situations such as fires (which were a constant threat) and shipwrecks.

Mothers Are Keepers of the Home

In looking at the job of a lighthouse keeper, we can gain a better understanding of the role of a godly wife and mom described by Paul in Titus 2. Titus 2:2-5 tells us this:

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one can malign the Word of God.

How, you might ask, is a lighthouse keeper like a mom? In praying about this topic and feeling overwhelmed by the task of writing on it, I asked God to give me some help (as I often do), and I was struck by a particular word that popped out at me when reading the verse. Although you do not see this word in the NIV (which I have listed above), you will find the word “keeper” in other translations, such as the KJV. In many translations, instead of saying that a woman should be “busy at home,” it says that a woman should be “keepers at home” (v. 5). In fact, in the Greek, the word is actually “oikourgos” and means “keeper-at-home” or “house keeper.”

What exactly does a “keeper-at-home” do? To understand this term, it is helpful to look at the definition of “keeper,” as given here by Dictionary.com:

a person who guards or watches, as at a prison or gate

a person who assumes responsibility for another’s behavior

a person who owns or operates a business

a person who is charged with the maintenance of something

a person charged with responsibility for the preservation and conservation of something valuable, as a curator or game warden

and a person who conforms to or abides by a requirement.

Wow! In relation to the task of mother, are you seeing how many of these characteristics are those that a mom does every single day?

As a “keeper-at-home,” a mother lives on the job, is on call 24/7, must keep up with maintenance of home and care of children, and sacrifices herself on a daily basis to ensure her family is protected and cared for. She, essentially, is the guardian of her children and her constant work and effort keeps the household running, or “lantern beaming,” so to speak.

I do think it is important to clarify that being a “keeper of the home” doesn’t necessarily mean women can’t work outside the home. We understand from reading elsewhere in Scripture that the roles of women were varied, and we need to seek God for His will for our life. However, as women, we have been given the role of running our houses and taking care of our husbands and children; therefore, we have been given abilities unique to our gender that help us in that role — whether as stay-at-home moms or working moms.

So, continuing on with this metaphor of a lighthouse keeper to describe what we do every day as moms, we can also draw a few other ideas related to this idea of being a “keeper-at-home”:

 1. We don’t all have to mother the same.

One of the ideas that stood out to me as I was doing some research on the job of a lighthouse keeper is that each lighthouse station was slightly different. Each lighthouse station had its own signature blinks to help mariners identify the light and was made unique from the other lighthouse stations to further help sailors determine where they were. Similarly, we, as moms, don’t have to all mother the same. As a mom, I often get caught up in comparing myself to another mom and feeling superior or inferior to another mom based on how I do things in comparison to how she does things.

However, we should draw a firm line on the principles that the Gospel outlines for godly wives and mothers, but we can execute tasks with our own unique style and flair. One mom may be really active and connect with her kids through outings and trips to the park and museum. Another mom may prefer to connect with her kids through quieter activities like playing board games and reading books together.

One mom may cook home-cooked meals every night and another may have the pizza place on speed-dial. As moms, we often make up lists and create expectations for ourselves that the Bible doesn’t mention specifically. Instead of comparing ourselves to other moms, we can feel the freedom to mother our kids in our own unique style, consulting God about the ins and outs of our decisions, knowing that as long as we are adhering to the principles of the Gospel and looking to Him to lead us — that we don’t all have to mother exactly the same.

2. We have to follow the manual.

While the keepers had varied responsibilities depending on their station and each light station was slightly different, they still all followed the same manual given to them by the U.S. Lighthouse Service. As moms, we, too, though we don’t all have the same personalities or style as moms, as I mentioned, have to live by the manual.

Quite interestingly, in Titus, when the apostle Paul instructs the older women to “teach the younger women,” he uses the Greek word “sóphronizó” which means “to recall to one’s senses, admonish.” Paul urged the older women to essentially call back some of the women who were just drifting along and living the way the world did, not considering what it meant to be a Christian woman. In addition, he was correcting some of their attitudes toward religion. They preferred to follow certain myths and rituals, rather than actually live out the guidelines of the Gospel.

We can be challenged by this in that we, too, as moms often will adhere to what we knew growing up, we emulate by seeing someone else, or we learn from the culture — but being an effective mom is, in fact, looking to see that we are doing what the Bible says in regards to motherhood and not simply drifting along with societal expectations and norms. Paul exhorted Titus to teach the elderly women (that they might teach the young women) what it meant to be a Christian woman in behavior and dress — that they might best represent the Gospel.

Similarly, for us, being the best mom we can means looking to the Word of God for our cues on how to raise our children — and not the world. Titus 2 tells us that a godly wife and mother looks like the following: loving our husbands and children, being self-controlled and pure, being busy at home, kind, and subject to our husbands. This is certainly not easy to read because it goes against the ideas of what it means to be a mom and wife taught by our society.

However, as commentator Paul Kretzmann advocates, these ideas that Paul was passing on weren’t merely his own ideas, but actually, the will of the eternal God communicated in this letter. And so, even though these truths aren’t necessarily those that are easy to live out or always fun to embrace, we see that they are those that are given to us as the guidelines by which to operate our “light stations.”

3. We have a duty higher than ourselves.

A keeper performed his tasks not just because he loved them, but because his job required it — and lives were saved when he performed his job well. As mothers, we, too, have a higher reason to do our job in that God calls us to love our husbands and children (v. 4). The lives of our children, as well as those looking on, will not only be enhanced, but possibly saved, when we take seriously our calling as mother and hold fast to this task. The Bible says to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:27). The conduct described in Titus 2 is not only to produce a certain desirable result in ourselves and our families, but to display Christ to others and bring others to Christ (v. 5).

This isn’t a “let’s put on a fake show” admonition here, but a real awareness that we may turn others off to the Gospel when we act in ways around our children that are not in keeping with its principles. While the verse isn’t saying that we have to generate perfect behavior from our kids to give others a good impression of the Gospel or act perfectly ourselves (we are going to fail at times, and there is grace for that), what it is saying is that our good treatment and training of them and their subsequent response to our love and guidance will show the world what can and will happen when we have Christ within us and put the principles of the Gospel to work.

In telling us that the older women were to “urge,” or as some translations say, “teach,” the younger women to love their husbands and children, we understand that the wives didn’t just feel a natural affection for their families all the time. This was a love that they had to learn. While loving our children will come naturally to us on some days, there will be other days when they frustrate, anger, annoy, and overwhelm us. Even on those days, we are to love them — and this love isn’t merely an affection, but a training in the right direction and desire to see them grow not only physically, but spiritually and emotionally. Proverbs 13:24 tells us, “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” When we love our children, we do more than simply display affection towards them — we guide them in the right way to go.

Conclusion:

I love what a high-profile football coach said at a press conference on what he considered his greatest success in life: bringing his own three boys to salvation. What a perspective! Not his number of wins as a coach. Not his impressive salary. He considered his greatest accomplishment to be the investment of his life into his boys’ lives so that they could come to know Jesus Christ.

Obviously, he’s not a mom, but his words challenge us as moms: As mothers and keepers of our homes, what are we allowing our kids to watch, to hear, to talk about? What environment are we creating? What are we leading them towards?

Titus 2 admonishes us to love our families and watch over our homes — not only for their benefit, but so that our conduct is in keeping with the Gospel. Similarly, Deuteronomy 11:19 tells us we are to teach our children about God and His Word when we sit down, walk along the road, lie down, and get up. In this series on motherhood, I have been so challenged as I’ve evaluated my own attitudes toward motherhood and my apathy, at times, in regards to the job I have of helping to cultivate the souls of my children to know God and know the truths of God.

The mother of Charles Spurgeon prayed for her son and deeply impressed him with her own advocacy for him when he was a strong-willed youth of 14 and 15 who hadn’t yet decided to devote his life to Christ. In particular, he remembered her pleading for the souls of her children in prayer and saying, “Now, Lord, if my children go on in their sins, it will not be from ignorance that they perish, and my soul must bear swift witness against them at the day of judgment if they lay not hold of Christ.” He later reflected, “How can I ever forget her tearful eye when she warned me to escape from the wrath to come?”

Spurgeon was moved by his mother’s pleading for his soul, but did not accept Christ until one Sunday morning, drawn to a small Methodist chapel, he heard the simple words of a pastor declare that he could be saved by looking unto Jesus Christ. And, in that moment, Spurgeon put his faith in Jesus Christ. The words of the pastor inspired him, but his mother’s intercession for him lay the groundwork for his decision to accept Christ.

When we are tempted to doubt our own effectiveness as moms or neglect to pray for and guide our own children, how greatly they miss out. Just as a lighthouse keeper is essential to his lighthouse station, we are essential to our children and homes and have an important role to play in molding our kids and teaching them the truths of the Gospel. I can recall the many times, in my own childhood, how my own Christian mother would check up on me, ask me probing questions about my whereabouts, and share morsels of wisdom to guide me in my current season. While I didn’t always like her questions or care of me at the time, I can look back now and see that she loved me and was looking out for me. In addition, I can recall the many times I walked in on her when she had her Bible open or her eyes were closed in prayer. My mother’s faith helped to keep me on the straight and narrow when my rebellious heart drifted and sought to go elsewhere.

In the wear and tear that comes with daily life and the care of children, we may forget the high and holy calling we have been given to love and guide our children — but Scripture reminds us of the important role of mom and “keeper at home.”

May we ever remember the deep impact a godly mother has on her children — and strive to be the best mother, or “keeper,” that we can.

Related Resources:

This is Part 2 in the series “Motherhood: Joys, Challenges, and Trials.” Check out Part 1: “Why Your Work as a Stay-at-Home Mom Matters,” which explores how to view what you do as valuable when you are bogged down with the monotony of unending laundry, dirty dishes, and kids’ squabbling.

Know that you are called to more than motherhood, but not sure what that calling is? Take a look at last month’s series on calling, starting with Part 1: “Being Bold in Our God-Given Calling.” Other articles in the series define calling in biblical terms, explore common fears we can have in answering our calling, and detail how to grow in our calling.

*All information about lighthouse duties adapted from Sea Girt Lighthouse webpage.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

More Posts

Why Your Work as a Stay-at-Home Mom Matters

tongues-1031219_1280

When I left my teaching career to become a stay-at-home mom, I thought that I would stay at home for a short time and then jump back into working outside the home. I planned to find a part-time teaching or editing job and pursue the new direction in music God had called me to follow, but I never imagined that the new direction would include stepping away from work outside the home for eight years — and counting.

This was just one of many surprises I encountered when I left my full-time career. The other major surprise I didn’t expect was how difficult it was for me to embrace my new role. Whereas I felt a sense of purpose when I showed up for work each day to teach and help mold the lives of students, I struggled to find my purpose in the monotony and grind of housework and care of my small children. I began to dread the “So, what do you do?” question at get-togethers and wished I still had a badge and professional accomplishments to show others.

Sacrifices in My Role as Stay-at-Home Mom

I fought hard to keep the old me intact, but I felt her slipping away with each day. A few months after I left, I remember the day I stood in my bathroom and tried in vain to get through my normal pre-stay-at-home-mom morning routine of shower, hair, makeup, and outfit selection.

What had been so effortless when I was working and had only one, as my husband took my daughter to daycare in the morning to leave me an hour to get ready, now loomed in front of me like an impossible Mt. Everest. My 2-year-old hopped around my feet asking me to play with her. My newborn fussed in his bouncer and wanted to be picked up. As the weeks before had taught me, inevitably, if and when I could get through the shower, hair-straightening, and mascara application, my then infant son would spit up on the fresh shirt I had selected or pull out my earrings or try to eat my hair.

Suddenly, on this particular day, I realized that I could no longer keep up with my normal routine. I was going to have to adopt a new one. While I once looked down on frumpy moms at Target who wore rumpled sweats and oversized shirts, I now understood that these women hadn’t necessarily just “let themselves go” because they didn’t care or try. They didn’t have a second in their day where a baby didn’t need to be fed or a diaper changed or a meal prepared or a load of laundry put in the washer or a mess cleaned off the floor.

T-shirts and sweats didn’t seem like such a bad “work uniform” — and I followed suit. No, I didn’t just “let myself go” and give up on myself. But I stopped fighting so hard to get dolled up and set a different standard for myself: Sweats and T-shirts for the morning when I was at home with my two little ones. A shower and makeup in the afternoon during the kids’ naptime. And, if I chose an outfit for the evening, I picked extremely casual and hardy clothes. I reserved my “real clothes” for days when I left to go somewhere like church or the grocery store. I may have taken my new approach a little too far because my daughter, after she started kindergarten, did ask me in pleading tones if I could please wear “real clothes” (a.k.a., not my husband’s sweats) to the bus stop.

Letting go of my “real clothes” and morning routine weren’t the only concessions I made after becoming a stay-at-home mom. My husband’s modest teacher salary meant I had to make adjustments to my spending habits. I let go of the expensive hair salon haircuts and colorings and opted for $15 haircuts at Great Clips and do-it-yourself-color-out-of-a-box from Wal-mart. My twice-a-month pedicures dropped down to once a month (or not at all if money was tight in a month) and my clothes budget disappeared completely. I bought clothes in spurts when I literally had run out of all options and kept my clothes looking presentable by choosing, as I mentioned, not to wear any of my nice ones at home. I also became familiar with consignment sales to keep my kids clothed and made other adjustments that included shopping at a discount grocery store and eating out only occasionally, rather than weekly.

Though each of these sacrifices hurt, what hurt the most was the feeling that maybe all of the sacrifices I had made in leaving my job and adopting a more frugal lifestyle were for nothing — and what I did on a daily basis had no value. Though I knew in my head the importance of looking after the house and molding and training my children, I felt in darker moments that my stay-at-home-mom role took me away from other important things.

Do Stay-at-Home Moms Get to Have a Life?

Right now, in my current season, my older two kids are now school-age, and I have just one home with me (and she is nearing three). And yet, even though my older kids can help quite a bit now and I can take a shower in the morning if I need to, I am practically a single mom as my coach-husband is smack in the middle of lacrosse season and is also completing another degree. His nights and weekends are filled with practices, games, and schoolwork. Though we have an end in sight as lacrosse season is almost over and he will complete this degree in just a few months, each day, when my alarm goes off in the morning, I face what sometimes feels like a suffocating day a day of toddler tantrums, housework, and sibling conflict management (with my older two). Recently, after a particularly trying day of children’s antics and late work nights for my husband, I texted him these dramatic words: I feel like I am in prison.

Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely adore my children. Even when I say I want a minute to myself, when I do get that wish and get a few moments alone in the house, I miss my kids and can’t wait for them to get back. But sometimes all of their needs and wants and demands are so overwhelming that I feel locked in a “prison” where I exist to serve everyone else, and I have all but disappeared. As much as I understand the importance of supporting my husband and raising my children to pursue their God-given callings, I sometimes think, “But what about me? Because I am a mom, does that mean I no longer get to have a life at all?”

The Role of a Godly Wife and Mom

The Bible provides some perspective on the role of a godly wife and mom and helps me to reign in my runaway thoughts, saying in Titus 2 that women are to “love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God” (Titus 2: 4, 5) Elsewhere, we are told that a wife of noble character (other translations say “diligent” or “capable”) is of more value than rubies (Proverbs 31:10) and her works will “bring her praise” at the city gate (Proverbs 31:31). You know what those verses tell me? Being a mom, whether a stay-at-home one or not, does require sacrifice and hard work, but that work is that which is important and worthy, no matter how pointless or unimportant it feels at times.

Not every mom is called to stay home with her kids. Elsewhere in Scripture, we see a depiction of women who engage in business and other roles, so the Bible does not say that every woman has to be a stay-at-home mom. I know many moms who balance work outside the home and the demands of a family on top of that — and do it well. In addition, not every woman is called to marriage or child-bearing. The calling of the Lord to a woman is highly individual and we see a variance of roles among the women in Scripture. However, for those of us called to marriage and motherhood, Titus 2 is clear on the point that when we commit themselves to being capable and diligent wives, mothers, and home-keepers, we send a clear picture to the world of the Gospel lived out.

We give others a picture of what it means to be a Christian not just when we witness or serve at church or give money to those in need, although we need to all of those things. We also live out our Christian walk when we provide an inviting environment for our families to live in; when we serve our children and husband by washing clothes, making meals, and helping with homework; and we teach our children the principles of the Gospel.

In those times, then, when I am tempted to de-value what I do as a stay-at-home mom, I can look at these passages and see that loving my husband and children and committing myself to the care of my home — that is part of my high and holy calling at the moment. It doesn’t mean I can’t do anything else. As women, God calls us to serve in other capacities beyond that of mother and wife. However, if we are in a season where God has called us to stay at home with our children and this role is consuming much of our time and energy, we can take pride in our work and submit ourselves to the season God has us in.

Measuring My Value as a Stay-at-Home Mom

As a stay-at-home mom, I’ve had to make sacrifices. But perhaps what I have given up needed to go because the things that made me feel worthy and important weren’t necessarily things that one needs to be important or worthy at all.

In John 8, Jesus is challenged by Pharisees who attack his credibility and testimony. Jesus has an interesting take on their comments, saying, among other things, “You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me” (John 8:15, 16). Essentially, Jesus shakes off their comments and dismisses them because the measurement tool by which they measure him is faulty. They judge him using human perceptions and reason without trying to understand His statements or His identity as the Messiah.

While Jesus wasn’t distracted from His mission by these comments because He always used an accurate ruler by which to assess His own actions, I am susceptible to judging myself unfairly. Often, in moments when I feel the worst about my status as a stay-at-home mom, I feel the way I do because I am measuring myself by my own expectations or goals, others’ comments or achievements in comparison to mine, or the culture’s standards. The Word says we are to “renew” our minds (Romans 12:2). I can switch out that faulty ruler I am using to measure myself and instead evaluate myself by the truth of God’s Word.

At some point, I may go back to working outside the home, but for now, I am in a season where I know that where I am is where I need to be. When I get restless or feel imprisoned, I can remember the awesome role I have been entrusted with by God. Instead of asking “When can I get back to working outside the home, Lord?” I can say, “Am I being kind, loving to my children, chaste, submissive? Am I exhibiting the Gospel?”

And this place that sometimes feels a little restrictive can be the place I display the traits Christ is working out in me …

Related Resources:

This is the beginning of a brand new series entitled “Motherhood: The Joys, Challenges, and Trials.” It will include a few more posts this month on topics related to motherhood and helping you to navigate the challenging moments, as well as embrace your role as a mom more fully. Check out the next few weeks on the blog for related posts.

Podcast Notes and Corrections:

The podcast episode is meant to encourage those in the role of mother. The Bible does call some women to remain unmarried or not bear children. Each woman should seek out God’s will for her own life and search the Scriptures in her own journey to understand God’s will for her life.

 *Updated April 16, 2019.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

More Posts