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Are Christian Working Moms at a disadvantage when it comes to building relationships with other Moms at church? How can the culture of a church strengthen those relationships?
It wasn’t meant to be a slight. At least that is how my friend chose to view the incident. There was a birthday party for one of her 5-year old son’s church friends and he wasn’t invited. He was the only kid in his age group not invited. Publically she chose to put on a happy face and chalk it up to an innocent oversight. However, privately she told me that she was actually pretty hurt. You see, she is the only Mom with a kid in Kindergarten, who works outside the home. This latest episode was just the last in a long line of subtle slights and unintentional snubs that left her feeling completely unconnected to her church family, unconnected to the very Moms that should be her best support network.
I wish I could not relate to my friend, but unfortunately, that is not the case. As with other working Moms at church, I am left out of playdate invites, long lunches, and other fellowship opportunities which occur during the week. I know my Mom friends at church aren’t actively plotting to destroy my Christian social life. However, for a wide variety of reasons, sometimes I feel left out, isolated, and very much not ‘connected.’
Perfectly legitimate reasons why this occurs:
- All Moms, but especially Moms of young children, struggle with feelings of isolation. This is true regardless of the Mom’s working status.
- Paradoxically, the time period when Mom probably needs the most spiritual encouragement coincides with the time period of maximum disruption to all opportunities for spiritual encouragement. Seriously, between breastfeeding, coaxing an infant to sleep, diaper changes, and the whirlwind of age 1-2, I don’t think I heard more than 10 minutes of any one sermon in over 2 years!
- Playdates with the other young children at church are generally scheduled for weekday mornings. Again, this makes perfect sense, right? Public places are less crowded, Daddy isn’t home, Mommy needs connection with other Moms, it isn’t naptime yet… I could go on.
I get it. The situation still stinks for the working (outside the home) Mom. Clearly playdates during the week are out of the question. That leaves Saturday– family day– as the only real opportunity for the working Mom to schedule playdates with other church kids. Every family places an emphasis on quality family time during the weekend. However, especially for Moms who don’t work outside the home, Saturday is a sacred time set aside for family bonding, especially if Daddy travels for work, or has a long commute. Playdates are not high on the priority list. It seems like the schedule of a Christian working Mom is incompatible with the schedule of the Christian SAHM or WAHM.
Why Should a Church Community Care? Consider this:
- According to an April 2014 Pew Research Center Study, in 1970 41% of mothers, whose husbands worked outside the home, were considered Stay-at-Home Moms (SAHM). By 2012, only 20% of all mothers, whose husbands worked outside the home were SAHMs. This statistic does not include single mothers, or other demographics like families where the Dad is unemployed.
- Even though public opinion has shifted away from the traditional model of Mom staying at home and Dad working outside the home, 60% of the respondents in this study still believed it was best for the children if Mom stayed at home. If you break that statistic down further according to the views of various Christian groups, 69% of white evangelical protestants, 58% Catholics, and 54% other mainline protestant religions hold this view.
- Another Pew Study from 2009 touted these findings:
- Only about 10% of respondents believed a Mother of young children (not yet in school) should work outside the home.
- Yet, at the same time, Moms of all types (SAHM, WAHM, Work outside the home Mom) experienced similar levels of being stressed, feeling rushed, and interestingly… feeling happy.
So, what are the takeaways?
- There is a huge disconnect between the number of Moms who work outside the home, either by choice or necessity, and public perception of the ideal situation for raising young children. It is entirely possible that within the Christian community there is a stigmatism attached to being a working Mom. However, there are most likely a huge number of Moms at your church who are not served by the classic model of weekday social and church events.
- All Moms, regardless of work status, are stressed out. The logical (and very personal to me) conclusion is that all Moms need to feel connected to each other. Personally, my overall emotional health is directly tied to my perceived spiritual growth and the connection I feel to other Christians. Maybe there are easy steps a church community could take to address and perhaps alleviate some of the isolation felt by all Moms, including working Moms.
How a Church Can Minister to All Moms (and their kids):
- Hold Ladies Bible Classes on Wednesday nights, or even another week night. The church our family attends has done this for years and I have to say it is one of the highlights of my week. We pray together (sometimes the praying takes up more time than the actual Bible Study.. and that is just fine), sometimes we sing together, and different women are given the chance to lead Bible studies. The fact that it is during Wednesday night mid-week Bible Study is perfect, because then I don’t have to worry about disrupting the evening family routine multiple times a week.
- Plan Family Events/Playdates for Saturdays. Not every week. Sacred family time needs to be honored. However, sometimes it is easier to incorporate a Saturday morning playdate into a church-organized event, even if that ‘event’ is merely a bagels and orange juice meet up at a local playground.
- Hold an evening VBS as opposed to VBS in the middle of the day. Even the most dedicated Mom will probably not take vacation time off for VBS. Make that time special for the entire congregation.
- Consider holding some (not all) Mom/Woman’s fellowship events during times that all Moms can attend. Mom’s Night Out, Crafting Events, Ladies Day luncheons, Day trips. All of these events can be planned for weeknights or weekends.
- Provide babysitting/nursery services. Ok, so this last tip is relief for all Moms. Babysitting is super expensive and many families with young children will just opt out of events if they have to pay a babysitter $60 or more to attend.
One last thought. My daughter is not lacking for social interaction. Goodness knows she is an expert at the toddler social scene thanks to ‘school.’ However, if I want her to mature into a faithful Christian young woman, it will be necessary for her to have strong relationships with other Christian kids her age. I want to be absolutely intentional about cultivating those relationships starting now. So, it is vitally important for me, as a Christian Working Mom, to find solutions to the divide between Moms like me and Moms who don’t work outside the home. At the end of the day, we all pretty much want the same things for our children… but we need each other. We can’t get there alone.
What do you think? If you work outside the home, has it been difficult for you to connect? If you don’t work outside the home, how do you reach out to others? As a community, what are some ideas you have to strengthen every Mom’s relationship with God through our relationships with each other? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below!
Thanks so much for reading!