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To Work or Not to Work (I)
Apr 1997 Alan S.L. Wong

To Work or Not to Work

With the birth of a child, the mother is expected to make a decision ... to continue working or to stay at home. There are some people who think that women who stay at home as full-time mother and homemaker are wasting their education and missing out on "real life." Then there are others who frown on mothers who choose to continue working for not putting their children as priority. If these children become delinquents, working mothers become the scapegoats.

To work or not to work? What is the biblical perspective? What are some practical considerations? This article (in three parts) does not attempt to give you an answer. Rather it seeks to crystallise the issues involved and help you make a wise decision.

Our Personal Circumstances

Before I begin, I like to tell you our personal circumstances so that you can discern bias on our part, if any. We had our first child after four years of marriage. Before that, Hui Meng was actively involved as a full-time staff with Campus Crusade. After the birth of our first son, she scaled down her involvement to leading bible studies in the home.

While I was in seminary, Hui Meng also had a burning desire to study so we decided that she would go to school for two days per week while I stay home with the boys. They were then about 2 years and 1 year old. For those two days, I took care of cleaning the house, their breakfast and lunch, and the program for the day. This may include romping in our one-bedroom apartment, shopping for groceries, an outing to the park or playground, feeding ducks, chasing squirrels and watching cartoons together. For three years, I had a taste of what it means to be a stay-at-home parent.

Hui Meng, who had chosen to stay at home during the pre-school years, found that she had more time on her own now that our boys are in primary school. She therefore decided to go back to the work force. Nevertheless, she is just as committed to the boys ... sacrificing sleep and leisure to help the boys in their homework. We are privileged in that my mother cooks our dinner and I pick up the food after work. We usually eat out during the weekends.

The Woman in Proverbs 31

Here was a woman who seemed to juggle both household chores and work outside of the home. She wakes up while it is still dark to cook for her family (31:15). She spins and weaves winter clothes for them (31:13,19,21). She takes care of herself, dressing in fine linen (31:22). Both her children and husband praise her (31:28). She was also an enterprising woman ... buying fields, planting vineyards from her earnings (31:16), selling linen garments she made and supplying merchants with sashes (31:24). She may not have gone off to an office but she definitely worked outside of the home.

My point in bringing up Proverbs 31 is not to ask you to be a "superwoman" but that Scriptures are not against work outside the home. Of course, work outside of the home then may have been more flexible and supported by an extended family. Moreover, note that she had the help of servant girls (31:15).