By Mark A. Taylor
Twenty years or so ago George Alder wrote a column for The Lookout about working mothers. It was far more common those days than now for Christian ministers, writers, and other speakers to claim that God made wives to stay at home because Dad should earn the living. But Alder saw a different angle.
He agreed that the effect on a family can be profound when a mother goes to work. But he pointed out that working dads force adjustments on family members too. After all, the stay at home mom/drive to work dad pattern familiar to us in the 1950s and ’60s was unknown before the Industrial Revolution. In the agrarian economy of our great grandparents, the whole family stayed home to work the family farm. Who’s to say the social revolution caused by dads leaving for work was easier or holier than that caused when their wives joined them?
But now we’ve entered another phase. Technology allows Mom or Dad or both to work from home, some of the time if not full time.
For some this is a blessing. Parents can schedule work tasks around children’s needs and exchange the 9 to 5 regimen for a day in which duties may be performed at any hour.
For others e mail and instant messages via an electronic device in their pocket make them slaves to the job. Managers answer questions and make decisions for customers and coworkers who contact them night and day including weekends, vacations, and children’s ball games and birthday parties. As Jared Sandberg observed in The Wall Street Journal, “Work and life aren’t so much balanced as they are stirred into a stew that often satisfies neither quarter.”
Christian leaders aren’t immune from this mess. Ministers can be workaholics as easily as any executive or middle manager. And more than one elder’s wife has worried about her husband’s neglect of their children.
The Bible’s imperatives about godly parenting offer strategies more than methods. We can obey them despite changing sociological patterns or economic pressures. The church should show parents how to glorify God by encouraging them to follow the immutable principles that please him in any age or situation.
Materialism, for example, should be challenged among parents whatever their career choices. Christian families can support missions, share Christ with their neighbors, or undertake benevolence projects regardless of where they work. Moms and dads need help demonstrating and teaching about holiness, joy, and grace. And everyone should understand that our Christian education programs are designed to support not replace Bible teaching in the home.
As the old saying puts it, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Regardless of who’s working where and how much, we need strong Christian families now more than ever.