What Are Your Children Worth?

WorkingMotherSadChildRecently I saw a picture that a mom posted of her cute little boy’s first day at day care. He was all bundled up in his car seat, looking cozy, and ready to go at just 1 ½ months old. My heart hurt for that mom as I looked over at my own 2 month old and couldn’t ever imagine leaving her day-after-day for someone else to take care of her, comfort her when she cries, and help her develop physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually.  It just didn’t seem natural for a mother to leave her baby because she had to return to work.

Unfortunately, this is the reality for an overwhelming majority of the female population. According to the most recent figures by the National Center for Health Statistics, the average maternity leave is about 10 weeks, but 50% of all new moms only take 5 weeks, 16% percent of new moms only take 1-4 weeks off of work and a whopping 33% don’t take off anytime at all after their baby is born. Many moms feel they can’t stop working because of financial pressure or are afraid they might lose an edge on success in their respective careers if they take too much time away. It’s an expensive world to live in and men are no longer the main breadwinners, so many mothers feel they have to work.

Women now spend around 45.2 hours a week working outside the home, while children are spending more and more time in childcare. On average, preschool age children are spending 35 hours a week in childcare and 38% of children under age 3 spend 35 hours or more in childcare and 17% spend 15-34 hours.  So, if moms are spending the majority of their weeks working and kids are spending the majority of their weekly hours in childcare, who is raising our children the majority of the week?

This is not to say that moms should never work outside the home or help bring in extra income (the Proverbs 31 woman is revered for being productive inside and outside the home), nor is this speaking about single moms who have no other choice. My heart is broken for the incredibly difficult and painful road they have to travel trying to be provider, father and mother for their family. But, God didn’t intend for mothers (or fathers) to make their jobs, their bills, and money take precedence over their children.

Are Children Financially Worth it?

We’ve bought into the idea that we have to have new cars, really nice homes, and summer vacations. We have to give our kids the best toys, the best clothes, and the best schools, and parents are working themselves like crazy, even into debt, just to live up to a certain lifestyle. But while the kids may be getting the best of material things, they’re not getting the best of their parents. Children will get used to whatever lifestyle or economic status they’re given but they’ll never get used to mom or dad not being around enough. They will always want more of you.

I grew up in a home where we really struggled financially (we were a one salary home) and I knew others looked down on us for it, but I always grew up knowing that I was my parent’s priority. I knew they loved my brother and me more than money and our family was richer for it. I was able to see how God miraculously provided for all our needs and never once wished that Mom was around more for us.

I can’t tell you how many teenagers I’ve heard say they didn’t feel like a priority in their parent’s lives because their parents worked so much and that they want to be around more for their children than their parents were for them. The message we’re sending our children today is that money is more of a priority than family relationships. Working 40-50 hours a week to give them a better life isn’t conveying more love than being physically present in their lives and showing them with our words and actions that they are significant and a priority to their parents.

For some people, this simply isn’t possible right now.  You already have two car payments and you’re upside down on the mortgage. It’s not reasonable to quit a full-time job and stay at home in this situation, nor is it biblical to default on your loans to stay home with the kids. But there’s lots of people who are still in the planning stage, and can choose who’s going to work, how much, and where that money is going to go. They have a choice about mom working before she ever becomes a mom.  There are also those who have the cars and mortgage but can downsize or choose not to upgrade.  If you’re in one of these situations, take a look at your budget and see what you’re trading time with your child for.  Is it worth it?

Are Childrem Psychologically, Physically and Emotionally Worth It?

The mother-child bond has psychological, physical and emotional effects. You spend 9 months bonding with the life inside of you, Oxytocin (the “love hormone”) is released during childbirth so you “fall in love,” want to nurture your baby and stay close to them after they’re born, and you even share cells with your child. God designed mothers to have strong emotional attachments to their children and that  attachment helps prevent diseases, boost immunity, and even enhance a child’s IQ.  Having an emotionally available mother a majority of the time is one of the main forces in an infant’s development but it also highly impacts a child beyond infancy:

  • shaping the success or failure of future intimate relationships
  • the ability to maintain emotional balance
  • the ability to enjoy being ourselves and to find satisfaction in being with others
  • the ability to rebound from disappointment, discouragement, and misfortune

But the child isn’t the only one affected by the maternal bond; research shows that shorter maternity leaves can “interfere with recommended breastfeeding duration and may contribute to higher rates of depression among new moms” and 91% of working women surveyed said they had signs of depression.

It is no coincidence that this is the way God designed the mother-child relationship and then backs up His design with Scriptural prescriptions.

Are Children Spiritually Worth It?

When God inspired Scripture He knew that we would all struggle financially, our lives would be expensive and we would have many, many bills, (Matt.6:31-32) but He still decided to place the emphasis on loving, guiding and teaching our children, not on financial gain.  He instructed mothers to teach their children, train them in the Lord, and run their homes (1 Tim. 5:14).

You as a parent are the one God placed in that child’s life to love them, discipline them, and train them in the Lord (Deut. 6:6-7Prov. 1:8-922:629:15); this is not the responsibility of a babysitter, nanny, or daycare worker.  When women love their husbands and children and work in their homes they glorify God and make the Gospel attractive (Ti. 2:4-5).

When a mother decides to invest more in her home and her children than in a career, money or worldly success, God says this is a woman who will be praised and blessed by her family (Prov. 31:27-29). If this wasn’t what was best for your children then God wouldn’t have said it… but He did. It’s for their best, your best and God’s glory.

When I look at my daughter, I know she is worth the loss of a $40,000 paycheck. She is worth every penny just so I can be the main person pouring into her, helping her, comforting her and teaching her. We may have to scrimp and save, cut our eating out budget, and struggle, at times, not knowing how we’re going to pay the bills, but I know my children are worth the sacrifice and struggle, just so I can invest and pour into their precious lives as much as possible.

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. – 2 Cor. 9:8

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3 thoughts on “What Are Your Children Worth?

  1. Diane,

    Thanks for this post! I appreciate your sensitivity to issues concerning mothers working due to financial necessity and your support of the mother/child bond. There is nothing more special. I agree that it is heartbreaking to see US mothers go back to work so early after having given birth. The mother’s body isn’t ready and the baby certainly benefits from more time with mama. It may boost your argument to discuss how other countries treat state-supported prenatal care, maternity leave, and child care. The US’s mother/child policies are not the norm. I believe that it is time to demand that the health, emotional well-being, and development of mothers and babies is prioritized.

    I do take one issue with your article. Your article makes it seem as though mothers only work outside the home because 1) the family can’t afford for them not to; or 2) they have prioritized material things over the well-being of their children. Many mothers work because they love what they do and they believe that they are making a societal contribution. Working full-time does not make a mother emotionally unavailable. As a current stay-at-home mother (Baby is 5 months…growing so fast!!) who is actively seeking professional employment, I want to not only continue my strong bond with my beautiful baby girl and nurture her physically and emotionally, but I also want to show her what she, as a woman, can achieve. I want to give her a female example of hard work, professionalism, achieved dreams, and a fulfilling life both inside and outside the home. In addition to the example I hope to set, I also know my own limitations. I am not my best self when I am not intellectually engaged outside the home. This need in no way limits my emotional availability to my daughter. Some mothers do their best mothering when they commit both to their family and their work. Obviously, the family commitment comes first.

    • Dianne, this a great post! I really appreciate how transparent you are about this difficult issue and how it is abundantly clear that you are addressing this topic with love and not judgement. I agree with you on many points. But I also agree with Alison’s comment.

      When my daughter was born my husband decided to work extra hours so I could stay home full time with her. We felt like this was the Godly model that had been shown to us. However, it became very clear over the course of a year or two that I was not meant to stay at home. I was struggling to care for my daughter’s basic needs because my post-postpartum depression was raging out of control. But I felt like there were no other options to open to me, since I had learned that a Godly mother would stay home. I tried working part time or finding work to do from home, but honestly I was unable to function very normally due to my depression and anxiety. I was fired from my part time job and felt like this was another sign that as a mother I should stay at home. I stopped working and focused on being a full time stay at home mom. It was extremely difficult for me and eventually I would up being hospitalized. My depression and anxiety were so severe I was worried I would harm my daughter and my self.

      Now- four years later- I work full time and my daughter goes to a Christian day school 3 days a week. Many people in my life still feel like I should be at home with my daughter and that my husband and I should have more children right away. But we have to make the choice that is right for our family. In an ideal world, mothers would be able to stay at home full time and have a strong, positive bond with their kids. But it is sometimes God’s plan for us to work. I feel it is better for my daughter to have a mom that is mentally stable, not panicking about money, or co-dependent on her child than it is for her to have a mother that is with her for more hours of the day. This is not ideal- but we live in a fallen world must make the best of it.

      I want to let other moms know that if you need or want to go back to work, it’s ok. Listen to the Lord, pray with your husband, consider the health of your child and yourself. If you actively seek God’s will and He leads you to return to work, do so. There is no situation that will be perfect for every Christian mom, but there is a perfect situation that God has planned for you and your family.

    • Hey Alison,

      Space and time did not allow for me to address this part of equation. My desire for the article was to talk about babies and young children who have to spend the majority of their weeks with other people than their mothers or fathers because of financial reason.

      I agree with you that women should use their talents and skills to help better the world, their communities and their homes; the Proverbs 31 woman is a great example. I am very thankful that I have several outlets that stimulate me intellectually and allow me to serve others while still being able to meet my daughter’s need, first and foremost. There is no cookie-cutter mold for how each family or mother should function but I do think it is important to evaluate the child’s needs, along with the needs of the mother, at different stages (infancy, pre-school, elementary, high school, etc) and see what situation best meets those needs and make changes in your life accordingly. But, that’s for another day. 🙂

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