Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Work: Paid or Unpaid

In the midst of some study on the Seventh Commandment ("You shall not steal") I ran across Paul's admonition in 2 Thessalonians 3 --
If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.

The commentary on this verse reminds us that generosity and charity is good. It is, however, not a good thing for Christians to give material goods to those who are impenitently slothful.

And that's where it stings.

I don't want to get a job. I don't want my daughters to have to get jobs when they are mommies, either. How can I obtain paid employment when I know it would mean abdicating so many of my responsibilities, leaving undone so much of the work that I now do (cooking, gardening, housework, homeschooling, volunteering, and more)?

I can tell myself with all reasonable logic that I do work. Friends and family try to assure me that I am not lazy. But there's that verse: "if you will not work, you shall not eat."

Boy, women's lib sure has re-focused our idea of work. We say that women should be free to choose a career instead of staying home with the family. But after 40+ years of women's lib, we all know that a woman who's not earning a paycheck isn't really working.

The consumerism of our country adds to this. The only work that counts is work that earns a paycheck. All the other women earn paychecks, and somehow they manage to get their laundry done and toss some supper on the table. You know the lines: "They've got their priorities straight. What's the matter with you stay-at-home moms that you put such a high priority on home-making? You can manage without."

How do we know when to set aside the work God has given us to do, and trade it in for work which pulls in a paycheck? Is it mistrust of God to quit the unpaid work you've been doing (the duties to which God has called you in your vocation) so as to earn an income, or is it laziness to continue to do the work that doesn't garner any cash?


  1. "All the other women earn paychecks, and somehow they manage to get their laundry done and toss some supper on the table."

    Just to give you some perspective on this . . .

    I have almost always worked outside the home to some extent. I think there were about 6 months of my married life that I didn't. Before I started having children I worked full-time. But after I had my first child, I went to working only part-time. (I did work full-time for the first 8 months of his life). The extent of the part-time hours has sometimes been more sometimes less.

    Here's the thing, Susan. During the times of my life that I have worked the most hours outside the home, I have usually had help at home. For a number of years it was my mom, either coming over to watch children, or for a time, living with us and helping out with a lot of the household work. This past year when I took on a part-time school job in addition to my usual accompanying and teaching, we, as you know, hired cleaning help. We also ate out a lot. So yeah, I got the laundry done. But I couldn't keep up with all the cleaning and cooking. There was no way. In retrospect, as I think I've also shared with you, I don't know that I would do it again. It was a very hard year. I suffered and my family suffered. I think we came out ahead financially, but only a little.

    Remember that when you look at other women and think, "They're doing this and this and this, why can't I?" you're not seeing the full picture. We never see the full picture of each other's lives. So you may think that they're Super Women and wonder why you can't Do It All too, but the fact of the matter is they aren't doing it all any more than you are. If they're working full-time, they're sacrificing something else somewhere. There are only so many hours in a day and so many working hours inside each of us and when an hour is given to one thing it mathematically must be taken from somewhere else. That's all there is to it. And it's up to each of us to figure out how to cut up the pie in a way that we and our families can live with.

    So stop playing the comparison game, okay? It's a nasty, nasty trap. I know. Easy to say and hard to do. I do it, too. If you see me doing it I trust you'll tell me to stop it, too.

    FWIW, I have been out of school a little over a week and I am loving it and not feeling one bit guilty. I am keeping very busy trying to climb out of the hole this last year put me in. I'm not out yet. Maybe by summer's end?


    Love you, friend.

  2. My goodness, Susan, you sure know how to tap into the angst many feel over this very subject. But IMHO, you are working. All of the things you do contribute to the family budget by saving money, and as we all know, a penny saved is a penny and a half earned, because you're going to pay tax on your earnings if you get a job.

    Then, most importantly, there are the intangible benefits of having you at home. I'm sure your dh and kids could testify to that.

    Susan, you're working. Here's not working: my mom stopped cooking when my youngest sister left home in 1985 (my mom was 51 then). She hasn't cooked since; she and my dad (the heart patient) eat in restaurants. She doesn't clean; Dad does. She does do laundry occasionally. Most of her day is spent on the phone or watching tv. (My 78 y/o dad still works, btw.) Family gatherings are held in her daughters' homes or at Country Buffet. This is how she's lived for the past 25 years.

    Susan, you are working, and it sounds like you work hard. And you will be rewarded for it someday :)

  3. Cheryl, I see what you mean about not getting the full picture, not recognizing what the other women are giving up. And as Barbara said, saving is more beneficial than earning the same amount. But does this mean there isn't a way to increase the income? Because if we do increase the family's income with a job, we increase the expenses and decrease the frugality (and don't gain much). I think that's where I keep getting stuck and cannot solve the problem.

  4. "But does this mean there isn't a way to increase the income? Because if we do increase the family's income with a job, we increase the expenses and decrease the frugality (and don't gain much)."

    No, I don't think so. I wouldn't do what I do if I didn't think it helped us come out ahead financially. That's the reason I work--for money. I have no ambition or desire to work for my own self-esteem or personal development or whatever. (I wish I did, but if I'm honest with myself I have to say I don't.) All things being equal, I would just stay home.

    But I do work. So for me, anyway, I have concluded that up to a point it is profitable for me to do so. I think there does come a point when it is no longer profitable, either because it is not financially so (because of the associated costs) or because there are too many other (non-financial) sacrifices. But that point is different for everyone because it depends on the individual circumstances (what the household costs are, what the job pays, etc.). I have a friend from college who works for the Ohio Division of Securities. She does so part-time. She makes big enough bucks (she's a lawyer) to be able to afford a nanny/housekeeper and still come out ahead.

    For me, for it to be profitable, I have had to find ways to generate income that did not require child care costs. When my mom was able to help with child care, that was easier to do. There came a time that she could no longer babysit but I still had children who couldn't be left alone, so I had to adjust. For a few years all I did was teach piano lessons out of the home and do piano accompanying. I had to hire the tiniest amount of babysitting to help out when hubby wasn't available and I had to go play somewhere. In the last few years I have had teenagers that could watch the youngest so that has freed me up a bit schedule wise. I don't pay the teenagers for their babysitting. :-)

    So I guess what I am trying to get at in my long-winded way is that no, I don't think it's impossible for the wife to increase household income. But it's not easy. It depends on finding the right job that generates enough income to help you come out ahead even considering the additional costs of working. Maybe it has to be a small enough job that you can do it without changing anything else--without having to resort to babysitters or fast food or cleaning help. Or a job that you can do from home so there are no transportation or wardrobe costs. And it has to not have seriously harmful effects on the family. Any additional family job is going to cause additional stress. That's a given. People, especially children, are adaptable and they can adjust to a certain extent. But when the stress is such that it becomes harmful, it's not worth it. And again, the point at which that happens is not going to be the same for everyone.

    I wish I had a better or more encouraging answer for you, Susan. For all those words, seems I should have been able to offer a bit more help!

  5. Does the verse say, "If any does not earn money, neither should he eat?" or does it say, "If any will not WORK, neither should he eat."

    Try to think about those who are financially free and reached early retirement. They still work in other ways. They don't need the money.

    To be home, as a wife and mother, is a tremendous amount of work.

    Also, consider the old days when families had farms- everyone was home,working together on their own land. A great book on this is "Farmer Boy" by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I love it! There is so much wisdom in that story! Mom, Dad and children were all productive at home and found ways to provide an income (or increase) from their work at home. These were extensions of things they were already doing for themselves anyway.

    Mrs. White

  6. Yes, Mrs W, I too love the Little House books. Interestingly, when I found your comment, I had just come to the computer to look up "soap molds," thinking that there will have to be at least a little bit of marketing if I'm going to provide income from the work I already do. I'm not going to be able to sell bread in a used bread-bag (which is where we keep our bread) or sell soap that's roughly cut with uneven edges.