Few subjects in Christianity are more controversial than that of working wives. Many Christians feel that it is wrong for married women to work full time outside of the home if children are involved. However, for many families, especially low-to-middle income families, the alternatives are few. Many mothers are required to work because they are single parents. But this article deals exclusively with mothers and wives of families in which both parents/spouses are living at home.
It is commonly accepted in our society that in most households the cost of maintaining a home requires that both spouses work. It doesn’t take much arithmetic to determine that the costs of new homes, cars, food, private school, and clothing are beyond the income ability of the average one-income family. Currently, the housing expenses on the average new home would require almost 70% of the average husband’s income. So, logic dictates that two incomes are needed to maintain the average family lifestyle.
More and more married women are beginning to accept the pressures of a job as normal. That is unfortunate, because wives provide a good family balance for their husbands, who generally have a tendency to work too much and too long. If wives begin to adjust similarly, then ultimately the family will suffer. Since many women are the primary organizers and planners in the home, these gifts may be lost to their families if they become burdened by the daily work routine.
Loyalties and priorities
When wives shift their need for approval from the home to their work, problems can follow. There is often a mixed loyalty between the demands at work and at home. On one hand, a wife may sense a lack of closeness to her family as a result of the time spent away from home and the mental fatigue of work stress. On the other hand, she may recognize the need to dedicate even more time to the job in order to succeed.
Just as many Christian husbands/fathers abandon the important priorities —God and family. They believe they must be a success for their families, many wives/mothers rationalize in the same way.
Because there are negative side effects of working wives/mothers does not mean that it is scripturally wrong for them to work outside of the home. The fact that many women choose to work outside the home is not the problem. The fact that so many women have to work outside of the home to maintain the family’s finances is the real problem. If the family is so overextended that the wife/mother has to work, then the family has too much debt and changes have to be made.
There are 4 priorities that should be prerequisite with regard to wives/mothers working outside of the home:
Nowhere in God’s Word does it say or imply that wives/mothers should not work outside the home. But the lack of prohibition does not necessarily mean that it is best for families. The first prerequisite of a working wife/mother is a desire on her part to work. When a wife is compelled to work by design or circumstance, resentment often will develop.
2. Husband’s approval
Many working wives are able to gain approval from their husbands by pressuring them. Although some husbands don’t agree with their wives working, they relent under pressure. This is not the approval that a wife should seek or desire. Pressured approval will eventually undermine the marriage relationship.
3. Disciplined children
The role of the mother as the teacher of her children is incontestable. The father usually provides the policy decisions, but it is his wife who establishes discipline and direction on a day-to-day basis. The successes or failures of children as individuals will, in great part, depend on the mother’s success or failure as their guide. The greater the trend toward women’s fulfilling their emotional needs outside the home, the more children seem to become undisciplined.
4. Confused authority
God’s Word establishes the husband as the head of the household. For the working wife/mother, the loyalties between job and family may get confused.
If both husband and wife feel the need for the wife to work and both agree that she should work, some very specific goals should be established for the wife’s income. Otherwise, additional debt will result. At least once a year every working couple should reevaluate their goals and objectives. This is particularly true concerning the purpose of the wife’s income. A young couple would be well advised not to merge the wife’s income into their budget. To do so invites future disaster in the event of the birth of children, illness, or the husband’s job change.
They should learn to live on the husband’s income. They can then use the wife’s for one-time purchases (car, furniture, or down payment on a home). It can also be for debt reduction, comfort and special occasion purchases (presents and gifts, vacation, or private school).
God’s Word describes the wife’s role as equal spiritually and dependent materially. She is her husband’s helpmate —supporter and companion. The husband is commanded to love and care for his wife, and be responsible for the family. If a wife’s working outside of the home doesn’t interfere with these biblical priorities, then the decision should be one of mutual consent. But if it does, then the marriage continuity must come first.
This article is adapted from Larry Burkett’s book, Using Your Money Wisely: Biblical Principles Under Scrutiny, published by Moody Publishers. Many other wonderful financial concepts are found on the web site for Crown Financial Ministries at Crown.org. We highly recommend this ministry to obtain straight-forward, Biblical financial help and resources.
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Filed under: Finances in Marriage
45 responses to “Wives Who Work Outside of the Home”
(US) Possible Dangers The above article illustrates certain pitfalls of a couple becoming financially dependent on a planed income which is based on both spouses being able to provide a sustained income, 100 percent of the time. This type of financial planning or “financial burden” is commonplace today, and simply unrealistic. The proposed solution cautions couples to avoid merging the income of the husband and wife. This financial approach may work for some, but for others this can lead to yet another financial and marital pitfall. By not merging the income of husband and wife, then by following an accepted budget, the result can be “your money and my money”. The “your money and my money” approach does not generally work well in marriage because it is far too easy for one spouse to view their own income as the “extra money” in the marriage. A husband’s and wife’s income should be merged and shared.
(USA) Nick, I realize this comment was posted over 5 years ago, but I feel the need to respond. The author was not suggesting that a couple should have separate accounts or separate money; what he was saying was that a married couple should budget their fixed expenses on the husband’s income and save the wife’s income for retirement or big purchases. That way, they don’t feel that the wife HAS to continue working if she doesn’t want to anymore.
That’s why the internet is so weird. When a thread is open for more than a decade, you end up speaking into a void, conversing with someone who has long gone. I’m doing it now but I can see the futility in it. I wonder how long this will go on for? Will people still be answering comments from 2008 in 2030?
You don’t have to answer a comment if you think you won’t get a reply, but you can learn from their info and/or perhaps pray for them. We don’t usually throw out books, or recordings of programs, etc. that are more than 10 years old. We received marriage advice more than 50 years ago and still remember it and use it. It’s golden. Also, I have people I have been praying for (even some I never met) that are over 10 years old. One of them I found out about over 35 years ago and that family still comes to mind to pray for them. It’s all up to you what you do with the info you read. “Older” advice or verbiage isn’t necessarily garbage material. It’s all in the eyes and hearts of the beholder as to what to do with it.
(NIGERIA) Hmmm, is my reaction to this article. I need help, which is what brought me to this site. My husband runs his own business which is not bringing in much. I have been responsible for 80% of the family up keep and our children’s school fees for some years now. He sometimes gets himself into debt and on one or two occasions I have had to bail him out.
I once told him to let us combine our income and work out of one pocket, that we will be able to budget better and may be even have savings, my husband rejected this idea. When he has money he is generous just that those times aren’t nearly often enough!
My challenge now is that I go without so that the family can have; he buys more stuff for himself than I can afford to buy for myself because of the responsibilities. I still did not mind, but recently I discovered he has been having an affair and I am struggling big time to continue the way I have been doing.
My salary was late last month for about a week, though it has been paid but he has the impression it hasn’t and I don’t want to disclose it has been paid. I am so confused because I really want to conceal that I have money, I don’t want to cater for the house at this moment. I’m angry that he feels he doesn’t eat much at home, so whatever I do I’m doing for my kids and those who help me look after them when I’m at work. We have two kids, his mother and cousin also live with us, I want him to take up his responsibility and leave me out of it.
I already hate that I have to work this hard to make ends meet for the family, I miss my kids and I honestly feel like quitting work to spend more time with them and be there for them. I’m at home weekends and even then I am quite tired to really be there for them.
I have been warming up to him trying to make peace and apologizing because he says it’s my fault that he’s having an affair; that I denied him sexually, that he is hurt and has suffered. He says he can’t trust that my apology is sincere because this is not the first time I’ll apologize for not being as sexually motivated as he would have liked. He won’t say if he is still seeing the lady, if he wants us to work out this marriage or just not sure if he wants the marriage or the other relationship. He says I’m demanding too much by asking these questions and am not in a position to be demanding answers.
I have let him be, but the challenge still is I don’t want to spend my money! What is the right thing to do? I can’t hide forever and when he discovers that I’m hoarding my money it’s sure to cause another emotional outbreak.
This is Africa, should we separate I’ll be the one to move out of our home. Shouldn’t I save to get myself an apartment and to make a life in case the marriage comes to an end?
(USA) Jemila, I too have a husaband who has relied on me to help keep his butt out of bankruptcy. I recently went through it myself due to lack of emergency fund on my part, friends who reneged on purchasing my mobile home, and a 10% paycut. However, my husband continued to spend his money on himself while I had to do without. I had thought for about 3 years that we would move to a house he and his father had purchased that was already paid for, and then we could work on getting his debt paid down. He decided, without talking to me, that we would not move, AFTER half of my stuff had been moved and none of his. I have recently found that he has AGAIN quit paying on a credit card and hit has gone to collections. We do have options, however, not my paycheck as I am now unemployed. I cut him off and passed back two of the bills I felt he should have been paying all along. All I was doing was keeping him afloat. So I can totally understand where you are coming from. If you do not stop his lack of concern for how he thinks about finances then you are enabling him to keep up his idea of how much of a success he is. What you have to ask yourself if:
1. Can you live with a man who has confirmed an affair and yet blamed it on you? That is like a child who wants to move out but have his parents pay for the rent, electricity, heat, food etc. If you withheld yourself physically from him that is still no excuse for the affair.
2. How committed is he to you and the children if you suddenly quit financing his affair? I am sure that the payments you have made have allowed him to get hotel rooms, gifts, presents etc for his other interest.
3. Now that you know about the affair, how committed are you to the marriage, knowing that he has sinned against what no man or woman shall put asunder?
4. How much do his relatives know about what is going on? Not that I am saying you should start talking to them about everything but perhaps you should gently remind them that you are the only bread winner in the family and would appreciate any financial contibution they could make to the health and well being of the home they also live in.
Here is what I did in my situation:
1. I quit paying bills (electricity and heat) that he should be responsible for. Yes, I feel guilty but I am also tired of enabling behaviour that does not seem to change or that he seems oblivious too. By the way, I still pay for insurance on everything and groceries. With my pay cut to 25% of what I was getting (unemployment) for a year that is all I can afford.
2. I am going to move back to Canada, so that I can attend school for a registered nurse. This will force him to face his financial straits and fix them one way or another. The computer industry is done here and I can see only further decimation of the rank and file for jobs here due to the ease of hiring overseas.
3. He does not wish to take up his repsonsibility to be a good provider and feels that me making the short fall while he spends his money indiscriminantly is the way to go.
4. Now, because he is directly involved in the financial mess he helped create he is suddenly eager to move to the other house. Good for him; it is too bad that it had to come to use spearating before he saw the sense of this decision.
5. I take responsility for my own contribution to this situation because I did not say no, because I did not insist on us creating an obligation to each other by combing incomes and making payments, that way discrepancies and spending on things that are not necesssary was not checked.
5. I have come to realize that the separation we are about to go through may mean the end of my marriage if he AND I do not change the way in which we spend our money. I am sick and tired of being stressed out about phone calls, or letters, he gets knowing that people want money.
6. When and if we get back together in my corner there will be new rules in the house about finances: a) an emergency fund will be established, b) retirement will be taken care of, c) finances will be pooled, d) each expense will be discussed if it is a major expense, e) each will be allowed so much money to spend on what he or she wishes without having to be accountable, if the spending goes above that then reasons have to be made, f) we will more openly discuss finances. If any of these is not met then the marriage will be dissolved.
In my opinion issues with finances are just as important as one or both spouses carrying on extramarital affairs. It means that you are lying to each other and when you lie how can you trust each other.
This is probably a very harsh criticism but I feel that you cannot be a good person to yourself or to anyone else if you cannot take care of yourself. If you cannot rely on your spouse then who are you to rely on? I have prayed to God for the last 5 years about these issues and this year, after being laid off. I have felt peace and contentment about the decisions that I have made and discussed with my spouse. I feel these are right for me. I have asked and answered every question that I have put forth to you. The only thing I have not discussed is my terms for us getting back together. As I feel that would be too much of a blow to this relationship. However, when I am done school they will be put forth and discussed.
There are several parts of the Bible that can be applied here: 1. adultery, 2. good provider, 3. honesty, 4. faithfulness and probably several others that I cannot fathom right now.
I can only suggest that you pray and listen to God for your answers. For now he has answered mine, whether my husband and I will come back together after school I can only wait and see and pray and listen.
(USA) This is from the same Cindy in the comment above. We do have an option of rewriting the mortgage in which he could pay off his credit cards and his truck, however he does not seem interested in that option. He recently received a large sum of money from his parents in which I suggested he take $500 out (the amout it would cost us to rewrite the mortgage but as yet he has not done that). I do not know what he has done with the money. The money he got was because his brother was in financial straits as well so what they gave him they gave my husband. the offer was made to me as well befor the bankruptcy but I chose not to take advantage of it as it has been my experience that too many strings go along with such a generous offer, especially from in-laws if not my own parents.
I hope this helps clarify the direction I am coming from. It seems in this day and age that there is to much I in the word team and not enough our. I am learning that, I hope my husband learns it sooner rather then later.
(SA) Unfortunately this article is very worrying for me because we live in a day and age where money is needed. Men no longer want women who aren’t working. I personally feel that it is very, very important for a women to have her own job.
(ZAR) Personally I agree with KK,I feel that we as women don’t have to feel limited to be staying at home moms, after all we are individuals within the family and as like all other family members we are allowed to have our own dreams and ambitions and try to reach them. God has not limited us to be housewives he has given us the task of making sure that everything happens and is in order in the house but he didn’t say we have to be stay at home moms. He left that to us to decide how we individually want to handle this. God has not said we are not allowed to hire helpers to help us manage our homes.
2. I believe that if your husband truly loves you he will accept you as you are. Just like we women are told we shouldn’t try to change our husbands. The same rule can be used here. He should not try change you. If you are a women and you enjoy working, he should be able to accept that. After all, even though you are married, you still are an individual within that marriage.
I’m not going to go into the kids. One, because we all know both parents are responsible for the kids. Both fathers and mothers failure from any side, could still lead to undisciplined kids. You can be a stay at home mom with a busy husband who doesn’t have time for the family, you will still have undiscplined kids because daddy isn’t doing his part.
1 Corithians 12:4-11 “It is the one and only Holy Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have” Proverbs 18:16 says that your gift will make room for you.
I’m a working wife and mother because it’s what makes me happy for this. I only need God’s approval because he has given me the passion to do what I am doing and I do it all for God in God’s name.
It’s not all women that have the calling of being stay at home moms. Some of us don’t get any fullfilment from this and as it’s said if you don’t get any fulfillment, it means you are not pursuing your destiny.
(USA) Maybe I didn’t read the article correctly but I don’t remember the article saying that women should not work. The point of the article was that the marriage has top priority and if working threatens that priority then changes should be made. My wife is a police officer and it is creating HUGE problems in my marriage. She chose this profession against my wishes and she did it at the age of 39. Now she spends more time at work or defending her decision to be at work. I am having a problem with this. As far as I’m concerned she has made a decision that her job is more important to her than her family. This is what the article was warning against. I don’t think the issues of working women is always the fact that they work.
(ZAR) Once again, thank you for the article. I have to be really honest and say that I would never be a housewife. I pray for my job everyday and I ask God to protect my job and always make sure that I do have one, cause He says it in the scripture that whatever we ask for from the bottom of our hearts shall be given to us. I have my reasons one of them being that my husband always shouts and screams when I run short or run out of money.
Secondly when He does something like pay the rent he makes very, very sure that I feel what he has done. Every argument we have he will say yes, I pay the rent, I do this and that. For that reason I cannot ever depend on him financially because I do honestly believe that if I stop earning my own check then I would be putting myself in a state of abuse.
My other most important reason was, I have a child out of wedlock whose father ran off and now the little one is financially dependent on me and me alone. My husband doesn’t show any interest in supporting her at all. Just wanted to find out if am I doing something biblically incorrect?
Akhona, You sound wise in keeping a job. You need to make sure that you and your child are supported financially. May God bless you in your work and in raising this child.
(USA) I am struggling because I’ve always wanted to be a stay at home mom and can’t because my husband is disabled and has struggled to find a job niche. He has a 4 year degree which doesn’t seem to matter in this economy. I feel anger and resentment towards him often, even though I’m good at my job.
How do I process this? We both agree it is his job to be the main financial provider. We both agreed I’d be an at home mom when we got married and had our first son. How do I stop bitterness from continuing to pop up? Our son can sense my sadness and frustration.
(ZAR) Hi Cindy & Steve, may God continue to reveal His wisdom to you in this important ministry you are in.
We are 2.5 yrs into marriage I can say that it is with God as the cornerstone that ANY marriage can stand. We seem to have started off on a good note. I honestly believe that the 4 yrs we dated have made our start a great one. Even before we got married we discussed and prayed about finances (separate/joint), sex (before/aftermarriage), children (how many/discipline/day to day caring for them), jobs, house chores, in-laws (bridging the gap for each other, he knows me/his family better so he’s the best person to bridge the gap & help me/his family understand why I/they do things in a certain way).
We try and talk about everthing in ‘plain’ language. He is the better communicator who prefers to address issues as they come. I’m learning from him not to hold in issues and let them simmer into episodes of silence or moodiness. I now try to lovingly speak out and have made progress but I have relapses here & there. It helps that we have agreed to gently request a re-phrase of a rude/curt statement before a response can be given. Oh and I have a nasty habit of processing a part of a conversation in my mind then I give him the other bit, then I guess I look suprised when he doesn’t understand. I’m really making a conscious effort to deal with this. Wherever did I get this one!
We are both Christians, attended different churches before we came together and our biggest hurdle was with which church to attend. (His seemed to have sooo many restrictions on dress/what to eat etc. Now I have read scripture on some of these restrictions and although I don’t agree with everything, I realise that it’s not all man-made restrictions but God’s word. He hasn’t forced the doctrines on me so that helps too. I’ve since joined his church and we try and ensure that every evening as soon as we get home everyone in the house at that time comes together for the family prayer time. We miss a day or two every other week but we have agreed that each one of us has the responsibility to encourage/remind the other of the need to pray together and for each other individually. Our friends are not so suprised now when we start to sing and then kneel. We are struggling to get into a regular Bible study routine. So have decided to start with the Sunday School activity-memory verses.
At the back of my mind I have some sort of fear (is my marriage toooo perfect, it seems that way to me sometimes). I remember what most people say that ‘men/women will change’, that every relationship will suffer infidelity etc.
I know our marriage is still young and there’s more coming but I always pray that God gives us wisdom and direction to make our marriage witness to the fact that He is there to build good and lasting marriages. And now we draw on lessons from the Bible and Marriage Missions. Great tools I believe.
(NIGERIA) Well, I will be 26 in a few months, but sincerely speaking, when I hear issues that ensue in marriage I really don’t feel like marrying at all even though I am engaged. God help marriages and help me make up my mind too cos I have been postponing it, not only because of issues like this but because I have to work. Getting a job as a priority before marriage isn’t against the will of God. I would change my priorities once I start working and get married.
(USA) I’m a Christian mom who has been the primary “breadwinner” for my family for 12 years-this is not by choice, but by “default” since my husband was self-employed and his business failed while I was pregnant with our first child. I desperately want to be “the keeper of my home” as the Bible instructs, but my job is physically and mentally demanding and I do my best but am exhausted all the time. I’ve expressed this need frequently, but our role reversal is apparently not as much of a problem for my husband and since he didn’t make serious attempts to change the situation in the past, it only seems more hopeless as the economy gets worse. My son was diagnosed with a serious medical condition last year and this has created even more stress as I try to juggle being there for him with FMLA and the fear of losing our home and medical benefits. I pray and look for encouragement on these sites but too often people assume a woman is working because she is selfish and needs fulfillment elsewhere-not the case at all. Requesting prayer and Godly wisdom.
(USA) I feel the same way Robin. I too, HAVE to work, and am not given a choice because my husband is not able to provide financially for us either. He recently lost his job and has been earnestly looking everyday, but I never wanted to be the “breadwinner” of the family. And as my two young children grow (a 2 year old and a 9 month old), I am wishing I could home school them and instill God’s values in them and teach them and discipline them because I know they would come out better that way.
Yeah I agree with you that too often people assume that just because a woman is working it is because she is selfish and is seeking some kind of self-worth. That is not it at all for me. I work a full time job everyday and still have to go home and do my “night job” at home to keep the house in order. And as far as I’m concerned, my house is never in order because I can’t seem to have enough energy to clean the house, cook dinner, wash dishes, and bathe the kids and put the kids to bed and make lunches and then, wake up in the morning, and go to work and come home and do it all over again EVERY single day! I feel like it is not fair that women have to carry so much and it is now “acceptable” to balance it all…it’s just not fair for women.
(USA) Dear Michelle and Robin, I can somewhat understand your situation as I am also working in research field with a full time job. I want to tell you both that you are an encouragement to me and many women here. For the last three days I was feeling so overwhelmed that I became bitter, irritated and frustrated. I am praying to the Lord Jesus that He will bring a loving atmosphere into your homes and will give wisdom to your husbands to get more involved at home with kids, chores and other stuff. Love and encouragement to you both ladies. FPB.
(USA) 1 Timothy 5:8 says that a man who does not provide for (support) his family, is worse than an unbeliever. Do you think it would help for him to read this in God’s word?
God doesn’t want women to work outside the home but I know many have to for the sake of the family and you ladies are heroes. So many come through my husband’s company and do just what this one did. Set her sights on an engineer and keep spreading around until she gets one to leave his wife but all she got was used. Much damage to my family and a few others though. One associate did leave his family for one of them. All Christians as usual!
Within a year or two this adulteress became so ill they had to set up a hospital room at home for her and he takes her to DC several times a week to see specialists. She cannot walk. He sleeps on a chair downstairs and cares for her around the clock but for a couple of days of work just to keep the insurance. None are really sure what’s wrong with her but I have a good guess. God is not mocked and each will reap what they sow.
(CANADA) This subject always reminds me of this poem, written by Elinor Wylie (1885-1928):
Now Let No Charitable Hope
Now let no charitable hope
Confuse my mind with images
Of eagle and of antelope;
I am in nature none of these.
I was, being human, born alone;
I am, being woman, hard beset;
I live by squeezing from a stone
The little nourishment I get.
In masks outrageous and austere
The years go by in single file;
But none has merited my fear,
And none has quite escaped my smile.
(USA) God is sovereign and my prayer is that He redeem all the lost time I have had away from my family.
(USA) I need help too, which is why I have come to this site. My husband and I are both Christians, have been married for 5 years and do not have children yet. My dilemma is that my husband ‘wants’ me to work and I have no desire to. :( Before being married at 21, I worked since I was 16. I loved working and didn’t expect to stop except when we had children. However, within 6 months of being married I became so depressed -all I wanted to do was to take care of the house and my husband.
My depression shocked me because I didn’t understand my feelings. I thought they were selfish and I would berate myself over it thinking how unfair it would be to have my husband carry all the weight of providing for us when we had debt and living expenses to pay. He also picked up college again and graduated three years later. I started jumping from job to job in an attempt to be happy and often I would leave to take lunch and I would seriously entertain the idea of not returning. My husband would always tell me that I had to keep working so I did, until our marriage almost ended before our 5th anniversary. At that time we decided to see if me being home would make things better, now that my husband had a good paying job and could support us.
The only problem with this is that my husband hates being what he calls “poor” and has a lifestyle he prefers to keep up (i.e.: eating out whenever, buying when wanted, traveling when wanted). If he can’t do these things then he feels trapped and as though we can’t move up in our financial situation. However, we are hoping for more raises at his job and are praying for more opportunity in his career -he’s very smart so I pray he will succeed well and fast. We just bought our first house and a new car, and this year we have to start paying my husband’s university debt.
In my opinion, this desire to be home is so strong that I feel I should be now. But as you can imagine, I still battle feeling guilty and selfish for these desires. I feel like I need to do what my husband wants in order for there to be peace in the marriage. But when I was working, our schedules were so crazy and the house was never clean, food wasn’t always made, and our relationship suffered terribly. I feel caught between a rock and a hard place.
In arguments my husband has brought up his feelings saying that “I am holding him back”. Is it so wrong for me to want to be home? Is my husband looking at more material things than he should be? I believe God will provide and God already provided me with a part time teaching job (teaching english) that was very unexpected but it brings in only $200 extra a month and when we had to travel to Brazil to visit my husband’s father when he had cancer the church surprised us by paying for half of our plane tickets, so God provided again there. My husband wants to buy businesses and other property now while we are young so we have more financial freedom later in life. And while all those things make sense he never saves his money the way I think it should be saved. What should I do?