I am a new mom on maternity leave and am slated to return to work in about a month. I’m feeling conflicted about going back. I’m sad to be leaving my son, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much I love being at home. I know both can glorify God, but I want to do what most honors him and is best for my growth in holiness. Would love any godly wisdom on this!
First, congratulations on the new baby! What a wonderful blessing from God, a reminder of his goodness during difficult times (Ps. 127:3).
I want to reassure you, your struggles and strong emotions at this time are 100 percent normal. Your son is just a few months old. But what miraculous months they have been! Despite the sleepless nights, despite the noise and mess, despite the toll on your body, your heart melts for this helpless baby.
As women, our wombs are fearfully and wonderfully made, with the ability to grow tiny new people (Ps. 139:13–14). But God’s care extends beyond the womb. He created the hormones that course through our bloodstream and bond us tightly to our babies. We care for our children, not only from maternal duty, but from a place of deep, embodied emotion. The love between mother and infant, despite all the troubles of birth and nursing, is a glimpse of the greater love of God for his people (Isa. 49:15).
And now, you face the decision of whether you will return to work. The option itself is, while difficult, an opportunity to be thankful. You have the blessing of a job that values you and wants you to return. And now you have the blessing of a son!
We care for our children, not only from maternal duty, but from a place of deep, embodied emotion.
But at this particular moment, thankfulness does not come easy. You feel torn, sad at the thought of leaving your baby. Many women grieve the end of maternity leave, with real tears. At the same time, wise decisions are not made on a purely emotional basis (see Prov. 3:5–6). You note that “both can glorify God”––both working moms and moms who stay home. But how can a particular woman know what honors God in her particular situation?
I don’t know your situation, and even if I did, I would hesitate to give you detailed advice (Rom. 14:4). But here are four general principles you can use to discern God’s leading in these matters.
1. Talk to your husband.
For married, believing mothers, the choice of whether and when to return to work does not belong solely to us (1 Cor. 7:4). Your husband took on great responsibility when he married you, and again when he fathered your child. Let him rise to the occasion! Talk to him about what is best for your baby, about your conflicting emotions, about your desire to do what most honors God.
Listen to his concerns regarding finances and caretaking responsibilities. If finances are a concern, are there lifestyle changes your family could make if you decide not to return to work? Or are there ways you could work fewer hours or work from home? Your husband’s wisdom on these matters should hold top priority (Col. 3:18).
2. Make time for Bible reading and prayer.
The best way to hear God’s voice is through the ordinary spiritual disciplines. Thanks to your new child, having rich “quiet times” may be aspirational only! But this is a chance to get creative. When your lap is full, listen to an audio Bible. Turn feeding time into prayer time. Make music in your heart and out loud––babies love singing. As you seek God day by day, he promises to give you wisdom (James 1:5).
3. Seek guidance from wise counselors.
In the face of difficult decisions, we should seek out wise counsel (Prov. 27:17). It can be especially helpful to speak with older women in your church (Titus 2:4–5). Ask how they balanced work and family life, how their choices affected their children, and what they’d do differently with the benefit of hindsight.
Talk also to family members who care about you and your growing household. It’s likely that some advice will rub you the wrong way. Regardless, try to listen humbly and evaluate all input in light of God’s Word (1 Pet. 5:5, 1 Thess. 5:1).
4. Expect messy.
We live in a fallen world, where the curse of sin affects all creation, including new mothers (Gen. 3:16). Use the resources God has given you to make the best choice you can, but keep your expectations realistic. If you stay home, there will be many difficulties, expected and unexpected. If you go back to work, there will also be challenges. You may change your mind after a few months or a year, and that’s OK. Regardless, expect some trial and error as you work through this process with your husband and fellow church members who know you well.
Based on my two decades of motherhood, I can tell you that working full-time, especially while your children are small, is exhausting. I am so thankful for several too-short seasons when I was able to be with my sons at home. Many women––myself included––have found a good balance with part-time contract work. I encourage you to research that option, especially if you need to supplement your husband’s income.
Juggling work and motherhood involves some tough decisions. I am encouraged by the fact that you want to honor God in this process. The good news is that you don’t need to be tied up in knots. Step out in faith and gratitude, and God will be glorified (Rom. 14:6, Col. 3:17).