Does Work at Home Matter?

Why Stay-at-Home Moms Don't Need to Be Embarrassed

“What I’ve learned is that God is glorified in the mundane work as much as he is in the magnificent. In fact, it is the mundane moments, the moments where we live each and every day, where we come to see the true greatness of God and his love for us.”

“So, what do you do?”

It can be an awkward question.

I am still working on a proper answer.

Year ago I said, I’m in school. Then it was, I’m an accountant. Then, I homeschool my girls.

But now that I’m an empty-nester?

I don’t have a single word or phrase that sums up what I do with my life.

Women (and men) who stay at home often struggle with the “What do you do?” question. In Courtney Reissig’s new book, Glory in the Ordinary, she addresses some of the issues we struggle with.

Glory-in-the-Ordinary

  1. Not a “Real” Job

Like, we don’t have a “real” job unless we’re getting paid. It’s easy to feel undervalued when there’s no paycheck at the end of the month. Or no official title to mark your identity.

But Courtney reminds us that work at home is a real job. Money itself doesn’t make a job meaningful.

“It is important for us to see work as a contribution, and not always with a dollar sign attached to it.”

  1. Wasting Your Brain

There were days at home with my kids when I wondered if I was wasting my college degree. When you’re reading The Cat in the Hat and drilling multiplication tables, you can wonder if this is mush to your brain.

But I had to remind myself that I was using my education, and perhaps more so at home with my kids than when I spent all day doing accounting for a corporation.

Maybe our at-home work (or even at-the-job work) is not in our chosen field of study, but all our life experiences add up and contribute to how we interact with others. (And homeschooling was actually very taxing to my brain.) None of it is wasted.

  1. It Never Ends

For those whose lives revolve mostly around the home, you know it can feel you’re never off-duty. You live where you work. The work is always here. There’s no boss to prioritize your work (which can be both a bad thing but also a good thing!). There’s also no official quitting time when you clock off the job and drive home.

In chapter 6, “Miles to Go Before I Sleep,” we’re reminded that while we were made for work, we were also made for rest. Rest is another way we can bear the image of God.

“Only God gets his to-do list done. And I’m not God, so I should stop trying to measure up.”

  1. Feel Guilty If You Need Help

When you stay at home, you can succumb to feeling like you need to do it all. Take care of the kids, cook all the meals, wash all the clothes, etc. (You can feel like that even if you don’t stay at home.)

But nobody can do it all, whether you’re home full-time or work full-time. Courtney reminds us us that the home is everyone’s job, not just yours. You can’t do it alone. And that’s okay.

“When the work of the home is for everyone, then our identity isn’t destroyed when our husband helps around the house. We are able to understand and embrace that he is a contributor too.”

  1. Not Doing “Big” things

And finally, often we feel that our work at home is insignificant because it seems so small. We’re not “out there” changing the world.

“An even more troubling aspect of our culture’s understanding of work is that we tend to think that if our work doesn’t accomplish something big, it’s not worth our time. But we are defining big and important by the wrong scale.”

Caring for the people in our own circle of life is a big thing. It honors their worth. And it also honors God.

“It is caregiving that makes up the bulk of at-home work. The food is for people to eat. The sheets are for the beds that those people sleep in. The clean clothes are for them to wear. Care takes care of people, but care also shapes people.”

I laugh with my sister Sandy about our job titles these days. We used to say we were stay-at-home moms. But now that our children are grown, we can’t claim that title. We joke that the revised title “stay-at-home people” doesn’t sound quite right, especially when the truth is we are not often at home anymore anyway. We’re more available than ever to do things outside the home and to contribute our energies to those outside of our families.

While it’s nice to have the approval of others about what we do, our worth doesn’t depend on their evaluation of how we spend our days.

Because here’s the main thing: whatever our work—and wherever our work—(inside or outside our house), if it’s done for God’s glory, it’s valuable.

“With every ordinary task you do, you are bringing order into this chaotic world that we live in. While it might feel hardly God-like, I assure you that it is.”

* * *

Have you struggled with your “ordinary” work not feeling valued, whether at home or in a workplace? Please share your thoughts.

Read related articles from Courtney Reissig:

My thanks to Crossway
for the review copy of this book

36 thoughts on “Does Work at Home Matter?

  1. Katie

    Thank you for your post! I have been looking at Courtney’s book for awhile but this has definitely encouraged me to get it!“With every ordinary task you do, you are bringing order into this chaotic world that we live in. While it might feel hardly God-like, I assure you that it is.” That quote is particularly encouraging to me today!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I was the same way with this book, Katie. I kept hearing about it, but finally I read something that made me go ahead and get it. Hope you’ll enjoy it too!

  2. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Great essay, Lisa!

    Being out of the workforce, and now reduced to doing the bare minimum of things I have to do, and letting the ‘want-to-do-because-it-feeds-my-self-esteem’ stuff slide, I’ve come to realize that each moment is a precious gift, and that living each one well in full appreciation for the Now is both blessing, and a gift given to God.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      “in full appreciation for the Now” – that’s the key to SO much, yes? Thanks for adding your wisdom, Andrew. It is oftentimes a test of our egos when we step out of the workforce. Looks like you’ve passed that test. 🙂

  3. Michele Morin

    I’ve been looking forward to this post, and you brought up something that I’ve not considered yet, because I’m down to just one son in my “homeschool,” so in a few years, I’ll be one of those people looking for a job title.
    I love the way you’ve joked about it with your sister, and I think I’ll just follow your example and keep doing what I do — not matter what it’s called.
    Excellent review, as usual, Lisa.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, you’ll be experiencing soon what I have been experiencing. It’s a weird little adjustment. But a good and necessary one; we want our kids to grow into their own lives. And it forces us to grow into our own again too. 🙂

  4. Cheryl

    This is such wonderful, edifying advice, Lisa! I was so happy to see that we were linked side-by-side on the link-up today! It has been a while since I got to visit with you, and I am so thankful I clicked over. If only we could really grasp the importance of what we do in staying home and homeschooling our children! Too often, the world’s standards guilt us into believing motherhood and being a wife and homemaker are so unimportant, when, in reality, nothing in the world could be more vital. I love the thoughts you shared and hope all is well with you, sweet friend. 🙂 God bless you always!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thank you for your insightful words, Cheryl. I was blessed to have a dad who always raised us with the truth that women’s work at home was very valuable. However, I still was plagued by my own doubts at times when I become a stay-at-home mom. But it’s something I always wanted to do and I feel super blessed that I had the opportunity to do it. I know not everyone has that option. I appreciate you for sharing more affirmation that our work at home does matter!

  5. Sarah Geringer

    Hi Lisa. This is such an affirming post. I was a work-from-home mom for 9 years, a stay-at-home mom for 1.5 years, then a work-outside-the-home mom for 4.5 years. Now I’m back to full time work from home. In every stage, I struggled to find my worth and felt guilty. Thank you for sharing that no matter what kind of work we do, it matters much to God.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Sarah. It makes clear that no matter what we do—or where—we can still doubt our worth. But thankfully we can also find our worth in those very places, too. I’m sure you have a greater capacity for compassion for every woman since you have life experiences in all these categories!

  6. floyd

    Putting others first is the epitome of humble; the most beautiful of human traits.

    Over time, we learn that what we do doesn’t matter near as much as how we do what it is we do. Any task, seemingly menial or otherwise, can be done with honor that belongs to God.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Oh, this is so good, Floyd: “Over time, we learn that what we do doesn’t matter near as much as how we do what it is we do.” Even though I’ve often known that in theory for “other people”, I’ve had a hard time applying it to myself through the years. With age, though, I’m grasping it a little better. Thanks for your wisdom, brother.

  7. Barbara H.

    I have gotten that sometimes when people find out that I am a Home Ec. Ed major who never had a paying job directly corresponding to that major: “You never used your college degree??!!” But I use what I learned all the time: it went into making me the person I am.

    I hadn’t thought about not having a job title once the kids were grown and gone. I guess I have a pass for now with my husband’s mom here. We’re a little too young to say we’re retired, LOL!

    I enjoy books and posts like this affirming that anything we do as unto the Lord is important and worthy.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I would think you of all people used that degree, Barbara. What better place to use a degree in Home Education than at home! 🙂 But yes, even though I don’t officially use finance and accounting principles every day, the experience of learning it is integrated into who I am now.
      Sometimes I do use the retired label, as in I’m a “retired homeschool teacher” but it sounds so old so I don’t use it very often. ha.

  8. Brenda

    This looks like a sweet book, Lisa. Love this statement, “Caring for the people in our own circle of life is a big thing. It honors their worth.” As someone who came from a family who didn’t honor her worth, this was an especially sweet and meaningful phrase to me. Thank you. (And, “Stay at home people” haha 🙂 ) ((hug))

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I wish we all could hear such affirming words more often about how much our “little” work matters. We can at least tell it to ourselves. 🙂 I’m glad that phrase touched you, Brenda, about honoring your worth. This book was a sweet one; it affirms that we do make a difference, wherever we find ourselves.

  9. Pam

    I hear you! Some of those negative comments or snarky remarks come at you if you are retired and yet still actively involved with a busy life and ministry. How quickly we make a judgment on God’s calling for the different seasons of our lives!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You’re right, Pam. All of us (and I include myself in this too) can be too quick to judge how other people spend their days, as if it’s any of our business. There are enough good things for each of us to do every day without worrying what other people are doing! 🙂

  10. Liz Teaches

    Work-at-home is a good option to those who want to look after their family. It works best if handled properly. I’ve seen numerous SAHM bloggers who are indeed successful in their industry. Nice post…

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, we all are called to such a wide variety of things. And especially in these days of technology, the options seem endless! Thanks for commenting, Liz.

  11. Debbie Putman

    Work at home is valuable! Although I worked outside the home, I always considered myself a homemaker first and foremost. Now I’ve retired, I can put all my attention on what matters most.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, we don’t often note that EVERY person works at home, whether or not they are also employed elsewhere. There are always clothes to wash and bathrooms to clean and people to take care of, etc. Wherever we are, there is work to do. Thanks for bringing this up, Debbie.

  12. David

    Dear Lisa

    I like the quotes you pull out, and I could certainly see myself reading this.

    Your review made me think of two aspects not explicitly addressed.

    1. Many people are “stay-at-homes” because they have decided to be: to homeschool the children, or to look after the home while their spouse works. However, many people are “stay-at-homes” despite their inclinations: they want to work, and to earn money, but the economy has no role for them. Over here we call them “unemployed”. Does the book talk to those people, or does it only talk to the “worried wealthy”?

    2. A kind of mirror-image to the stay-at-home spouse doing loving and worthwhile support and education is the person in work doing menial or meaningless labour for the paycheck they need. I wonder if many of the arguments in the book could apply to those people.

    I miss the days of good bookshops — the huge barns we have nowadays seem to be full of a narrowing range of bestsellers. Thank you for your reviews!

    David

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Those are two good aspects to bring up, David. (1) Hmm…I don’t recall the book making a distinction between why a person is at home, whether by choice or by circumstances. But if I had to narrow it down, I’d say the arguments tilt toward affirming the choice to be home. Could just be my perception though. (2) Yes, I definitely think the book’s points could apply towards ANY job, whether at home or not. The author didn’t often say that explicitly, but I often that it myself as I was reading. Even in my days as an accountant, I often felt the work wasn’t very meaningful, despite getting a paycheck and good benefits. So a book like this might have helped me value the work more at the time.
      America also has less and less mom-and-pop bookstores; even the large retail bookstores struggle. Amazon has gobbled up the market (but I confess, to which I had a contributor). I’m still a huge public library patron though, so no store gets much money from me for books. 🙂

  13. [email protected]

    I have definitely struggled with actually come right out and saying, “I’m a stay-at-home mom. I choose this role and I love it, but I sometimes feel like it isn’t enough. For me, I see all the amazing women who are homeschooling all over the internet also making a living as bloggers. It overwhelms my senses and at times, makes me feel like I’m not enough. While I am blogging as well (and I love it), I do not currently know how I would have the time to make an income doing it. Food for thought, for sure. It sounds like a great book!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      This book would probably make you feel better, Rosanna. 🙂 It is very affirming to whatever work we are doing, without having to do more and more (although the author herself does “more” by writing books! ha). Regardless of our profession, at home or elsewhere, I suppose we all have to fight that feeling of “not enough” from time to time.

  14. Julie | Unmasking the Mess

    Lisa- Thank you for this! I usually feel embarrassed when people ask me what I do and I say, ” I’m a mom of 5 kids.” I guess I feel that people think it’s not a real job or I’m not taken seriously.
    I love your thoughts about this:)
    Visiting from #Grace&Truth

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      If you’re a mom of 5 kids, you definitely work hard, Julie! 🙂 If anyone doesn’t consider that a “real” job, perhaps they haven’t tried it themselves. ha.

  15. Jean Wise

    very thought provoking. I think it is getting better or maybe it is wishful thinking. But with more of us working from us – I think I read the other day something like 22% of all job now – BUT even when I worked fulltime I never had a cleaning lady and looking back, should have. Thought I should do it all. I imagine that is still around for many women yet.
    lots of think about here today.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      The author actually touches on having a housekeeper, and says no shame, even for stay-at-home moms! 🙂 Yes, I think most women (men too? I don’t know) fall into the trap of thinking we should do it all, whether we work inside or outside the home. But no one can do it all, as every woman anywhere can attest! Thanks for sharing your insights, Jean.

  16. Dawn

    Hi Lisa!

    What a fantastic subject to write on and affirm others in! I have been heard making those bumbling efforts to try to explain what I do, and more often than not it was the defensive remarks to home education as opposed to stay-at-home momma. I still find myself back-peddling with the homeshcooling discussion, though I shouldn’t. Courtney’s book looks amazing.
    Thanks for sharing this at the #GraceMoments Link Up.

    Blessings,
    Dawn

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, it’s often hard to find words to try to explain our choices to someone who doesn’t understand. I suppose in an ideal world, we’d all just accept each other’s differences and move on. 🙂 Courtney’s book does help with a lot of this, but doesn’t eliminate it altogether; we have to each figure out the specifics on our own. Blessings as you do that, Dawn.

  17. lynn

    This sounds like a wonderful book, a well-needed reminder that though we may not work for pay (or have little ones underfoot any more) we still have a job. And it’s an important one. By being home, we have the potential to make our houses welcoming places not only for our own families and extended families, but also for others in our community. Thanks for your heartfelt post and the pat on the back for home-keepers everywhere 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I can sometimes feel that I don’t have a “job” anymore since my daughters are grown. But yes, we do still have important work to do! I appreciate you sharing this affirmation, Lynn. Regardless of our work, we all appreciate encouragement to keep going strong in it.


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