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How Did I End Up Being a Working Mom?

We did not have a definite plan to transform desires into reality.


by Mary May Larmoyeux and Ethan Pope

Have you ever gotten lost while traveling? Perhaps finding yourself in the middle of a busy intersection … not knowing which way to turn … just hoping you’d end up in the right direction.  

At a time like that, a good map leading to your destination would be priceless.

Mary: As a young girl, all I ever wanted was to be a wife and mother. But somehow I ended up being a full-time working mom, even when the children were quite young. What happened?

On one level, it's easy to understand why my desires did not become a real­ity: the premature birth of our oldest child; my husband choosing to become self-employed at the very time that I "quit" my job to stay home; the expenses of sending children to Christian schools … I could go on and on.

As newlyweds, Jim and I had talked about how we wanted our lives to be when we had children. I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, and Jim totally supported that. But we did not have a definite plan to transform desires into reality.

I often found myself wondering: How did I end up working when I wanted to stay home with the kids?

Ethan: My dad was dying of cancer during the early years of my life, and my mom had to spend a lot of time with him in the hospital. Because I knew that her heart was really at home, that gave me a great sense of love and security as a young child.

Dad died nine days before my eighth birthday. About a year later, Mom returned to the workplace as a schoolteacher in our hometown. She did not return to teaching math simply out of her love for teaching, but for financial reasons. She now had the total responsibility to provide for her family, which included herself and three children.

Believe me, if anyone understands why some moms have to work, it's me. I am proud of my working mom, and I thank God for her! However, I am convinced to this day that if given the opportunity to have remained at home, instead of entering the workplace, she would have remained at home to nurture and raise our family.

When Janet and I married it was our personal conviction that when we had children, Janet would not work outside the home. Did we have hard years financially? Yes. Did we ever seriously consider Janet’s working outside the home? No, not really.

Now that the children are grown, Janet is taking an active role within our ministry. She also travels and speaks at women’s conferences.

Mary: I real­ize today that staying at home with the children was not really a gen­uine goal. Yes, it was a genuine desire. But, somehow, a "new" car (even if it was secondhand), a bigger house—for the growing family, and Christian school for the kids pushed this desire into the back­ground. Had my staying home been the primary goal, then the schooling choices, car, and house would have fit around it.

As a young couple, Jim and I simply did not understand the financial ramifica­tions of early choices in our marriage. And believe me, we are not alone in this.

A friend of mine sent me a note saying that, “My wife would like to be able to stay home with our daughter and any future chil­dren we have. Maybe some day she can." Maybe some day—his words echoed in my mind. I remembered a young mom who had similar thoughts long ago. And those “some days” are now gone forever.

One time I heard a man speak about choosing priorities, and as an illustration he put some large rocks into a clear, glass jar. Then he poured a container of sand into this same jar, and everything fit perfectly. When he poured the sand into the jar and tried to put the large rocks into it, they wouldn’t fit, no matter how hard he tried to force them into it.

The speaker explained that the large rocks are like our priorities. When we plan our day around what really matters, everything falls into place. When we don't, then our main priorities won’t fit into our lim­ited time.

Ethan: Janet and I once lived in a lovely neighborhood in Dallas, Texas, in a beautiful redbrick two-story home. It was a wonderful home with a spacious yard and tall trees. But after living in this home for only three years, we felt a call by God to launch a ministry called Foundations for Living. To both Janet and me, this became a goal so big that it made everything else seem small. So, we sold this home and purchased a more economical one.

If I were to ask you and your spouse, "What are your financial goals right now for your family?" What would you say: Pay off the home mortgage, provide a Christian education for the children, start a business … ? 

I think you’ll have a better understanding of where you want to go as a couple after you and your spouse do the following exercises, (adapted from my book How to Be a Smart Money Manager):

Individual Goal-Setting Exercise (You and your spouse should complete this separately.)

Establish your priorities (from 1 to 18) on the following list, making your highest priority number 1. You cannot use a number more than once. You must rank all 18.

 __       Establish a business

__        Pay for college expenses for our children

__        Have more children

__        Pay off credit card debt

__        Give more to church

__        Ensure that mom can stay home with the kids (or future kids)

__        Tithe

__        Buy a home

__        Pay off the home mortgage

__        Set up a retirement fund

__        Leave our children an inheritance

__        Make a major purchase of (furniture, carpeting, etc.)

__        Buy a car

__        Provide a Christian education for our children

__        Operate our family on a budget

__        Acquire more education for myself

__        Help relatives who are ill or in failing health

__        Other:

Comparison of Husband’s and Wife’s Goals

Write down the priorities from your individual goal-setting exercise.

 H            W

 __        __        Establish a business

__        __        Pay for college expenses for our children

__        __        Have more children

__        __        Pay off credit card debt

__        __        Give more to church

__        __        Ensure that mom can stay home with the kids (or future kids).

__        __        Tithe

__        __        Buy a home

__        __        Pay off the home mortgage

__        __        Set up a retirement fund

__        __        Leave our children an inheritance

__        __        Make a major purchase of (furniture, carpeting, etc.)

__        __        Buy a car

__        __        Provide a Christian education for our children

__        __        Operate our family on a budget

__        __        Acquire more education for myself

__        __        Help relatives who are ill or in failing health

__        __        Other:

Discuss your individual goals and then compare your answers. Are you and your spouse traveling through life in the same direction … with shared goals?

Now, individually jot down what you and your spouse learned from this exercise.

Here are two final questions:

  •  Is one of your shared goals to have mom stay home with the kids?
  •  If so, are you following the right map to that destination?

Adapted from There’s No Place Like Home ©2001 by Mary May Larmoyeux and Ethan Pope. Used with permission.

Mary May Larmoyeux is the author of Help for Busy Moms and co-author of There’s No Place Like Home. She and her husband, Jim, have two grown sons and five grandchildren and live in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Ethan Pope is president of Foundations for Living Ministry and a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary. He is an author, speaker, conference leader, and frequent guest on national radio programs. Ethan and his wife, Janet, have two grown children and they live in Dallas, Texas.

FamilyLife is a donor-supported ministry offering practical and biblical resources and events to help you build a godly marriage and family. 



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