The Secret, Silent Bleeding of a Working Mother’s Heart

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Episode Synopsis

Jani and Heidi—both working moms—discuss the guilt and divided loyalties working mothers struggle with.

Audio Transcript

Jani: As you might know, Heidi and I have started a series on the children in our lives. Whether you’re a mother, a grandmother, an aunt, a Sunday school teacher, a neighbor—do you know any children? If you do, then this series is for you.

Heidi: So all of us know children, Jani, in so many different aspects of life, whether it’s at church or at school or at work or at home.

Jani: Yes, and God has called us to speak into their lives that the next generation might know him and set their hope on God. That’s from Psalm 78:6. We want to help all the women that we know influence the children in their lives towards Christ.

A Sensitive Subject 1:15

Jani: Well today, Heidi and I want to talk about a sensitive subject. It’s about working women. Heidi, you and I have both been workers outside of our homes, both before we had children and after. Tell our listeners a little bit about your background.

Heidi’s Experience

Heidi: So before we had kids, I was a Neonatal ICU (NICU) nurse at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. And then as soon as we became pregnant with Hannah, I got so sick, Jani, I threw up every day, and I remember sitting in my office throwing up thinking, “I know I’m going to stay home eventually. Why am I still here?” And so Mike said, “Just come home.” So then I stayed at home and we had our three kids and I didn’t work at all. We had Hannah and then we had James, and then we had Gideon. And then when Gideon was about two years old, I felt a little call on my heart, like…”Hmm, I feel like I have a little bit more bandwidth again, everybody’s sleeping through the night, I wonder if I could work somewhere? I wonder if I could do something.” And I found a job working with a company called VIPKid and I taught English to children in China.

Jani: Oh my goodness!

Heidi: I could do that in the morning before the kids woke up. So I just woke up and maybe worked an hour and before all the kids got up, and then I would be done for the day. Then, as many of you guys know, I started working for Renewal Ministries very part time. I can do it at home, and then once a week Jani and I get to meet, which is so much fun. So I tell people, when they ask me what I do, I say I primarily stay home with our family as a homemaker, but I do work a little part time.

Jani: Yes. And you work very hard. You’re the reason we can do this podcast, Heidi—you’ve really worked hard on it, and our listeners and I thank you very much for that.

Jani’s Experience

Heidi: Tell me about your experience, Jani.

Jani: Well, I am a school teacher (an elementary school teacher). So the four years before we had children I taught in Dallas, Texas while Ray was in seminary. Then I was home for a few years and actually it was quite a few years. I tutored after school, taught a few piano lessons, that kind of thing, but never really worked full time. It was all part time. Sometimes I would babysit or take children in after school when their moms were working.

Jani: But in the 19th year of our marriage, we moved to Trinity Seminary, which is outside of Chicago and we lived in a little suburb called Libertyville. We thought we could make it on Ray’s salary. There were six of us, four children and Ray and me, and we thought we could make it if I would substitute teach and keep tutoring, teach piano after the kids got home from school, that kind of thing where I could still have my home be my main base. But after a year, Ray came to me and he said, “Honey, we’re not making it. We’re going deeper and deeper into debt, and we can’t do this either. I have to ask you to work full time or I’m going to have to resign at Trinity and we will have to move somewhere.”

Jani: We tried everything. Heidi, we sold our second car and the six of us got by on one car. We just paired down everything. I took on more tutoring students but we just couldn’t make it. It became obvious to me that the basic needs of our family were exceeding our income, and I just didn’t want to disrupt our family again. We had just moved…

Heidi: Moving is a big change for everyone.

Jani: Huge. Yes across the country, really, into different subculture, and the kids had been settled into their schools now. So through prayers, advice and a lot of tears on my part, I have to admit, I took a second grade teaching position in a public school. And I tell our listeners this to let them know I’ve lived on both sides of trying to make it work, of really budgeting as tightly as we can and really trying to make it work. And then coming to a point where I did feel I had to work outside my home.

What are the hard things about working outside of the home 5:37

Heidi: Heidi, what is one of the harder things for you about working part time, even with small children? Remind our audience the ages of your children.

Heidi: Hannah is 7 years old. James is 5 years old and Gideon is about to turn 4 and I would say the hardest is when I hear their little hearts look at me when I say, “Okay, today’s the day that mom is going to work a few hours in the morning,” and they look at me…”Oh Mama, we just want to hang out with you. We just want to spend time with you,” and it makes my heart break, and it makes me second-guess whether I should be doing this. “Lord, is this of you?” I want my children more than anything in the world to feel loved – that’s more important to me than filling my cup and working even a few hours. I want them to know that Momma loves them and mom is there, but as Mike and I pray about it and we talk about it, we feel that this is what the word is called us to. And so I have to look at how many hours I’m with them and I feel the Lord’s blessing on this and so, it’s okay. And I comfort her and I say, think of all the wonderful things we got to do this morning and I’m so looking forward to being with you in the afternoon. But that’s hard to see how it affects the kids hearts.

Jani: Yes. When a child looks up into its’ mother’s face and says, “Don’t work, Mommy.”

Heidi: Oh, it makes me want to cry and you think, “Oh, Lord, am I doing the wrong thing?” Oh, it’s so hard.

Jani: Yes, it’s very hard. I think sometimes we live with the illusion that a woman can achieve career success without sacrificing, at least to some degree, the daily personal care of her home and her young children.

The Secret, Silent Bleeding of a working mother’s heart 7:23

Jani: When I went back to work, I was really torn because I could not give 100% of my time to my job and to my home and family. And so, Heidi, I think both you and I have experienced what many of our working mothers who are listening have agonized over. I call it that secret silent bleeding of a working mother’s heart. You feel almost caught and you don’t know how to stop that bleeding. You don’t want it to gush out on anybody else. So we just need to take it to the Lord with all the guilt, all the exhaustion, all the divided loyalties, lay it before him and ask him to restore our souls.

Heidi: Yes, exactly. And I think in those moments, you know, I don’t feel like the Lord guilts us. He convicts me about sin—when I sin and when I wrong him, there’s a conviction in my heart—but I think there’s a conviction, a difference between the conviction and that plaguing guilt. And so when that plaguing guilt hits, that’s an indication, “Okay, Heidi, take this to the Lord again and say, ‘Lord, what do you want me to do with this? Am I still walking the road you want me to walk? Do I have your blessing with this or are you calling me to something else?’”

Is it wrong to work outside the home? Should I feel guilty about it? 8:44

Jani: Yes. Oh, I’m so glad you brought up that word “guilt”—that guilty feeling of, “Oh, what’s wrong? Something’s wrong here.” We’re going to talking about that a lot in the next three or four podcasts about a mother’s guilt.

Heidi: Oh good!

Jani: Oh, we bear so much. We carry so much, don’t we? We need to talk through what to do with that guilt. Part of that guilt comes from working. Now, you and I and our listeners know that the question isn’t whether a woman should work outside her home. I mean the Bible, it doesn’t say, “Thou shalt not leave your home to make money!” Or it doesn’t say, “A woman shall get out there and work.” The Lord leaves it open and in a way that’s hard, but it’s also beautiful. He gives us a chance to work this out on an individual basis. Therefore, let us not judge one another.

Heidi: That’s helpful.

Jani: Let’s be really tenderhearted toward other women who have chosen either to work and have to provide care for their children through another way or those who have chosen to stay home, and yet they’re always asking for prayer because they can’t quite make it work financially. Let’s lay that before the Lord and not judge because the Lord has left it open to each one of us.

Some Biblical Examples

Jani: Think of these different places in the Bible. Think of Lydia, in Acts 16:14 who says she was a seller of purple goods. She was a woman who worked outside her home and she was recorded there. We remember her or Aquilla and Priscilla, they were a husband and wife in business together in Acts 18:3. The Bible certainly doesn’t say women can’t work. Think of Proverbs 31. Heidi, let’s just look at that for a minute. The woman of virtue—oh, we all want to be known as the Proverb’s 31 woman, right? She’s held up as just the perfect woman.

Heidi: Yes, she has so many admirable traits and she loves the Lord more than anything.

Jani: Yes. Do you see her working there at all, Heidi, in that chapter of Proverbs 31? Oh look at verse 16: “She considers a field and buys it.” That reminds me of you and Mike…

Heidi: …buying Christmas tree fields, I know! I like how it goes on to say, “…with the fruit of her hands, she plants a vineyard.” I like that she’s a farmer and a real estate agent, in a sense.

Jani: Yes. And Solomon is not condemning her for that. He’s lifting her up.

Jani: Or in verse 18 she perceives that her merchandise is profitable. She’s thinking about how to make a profit, how to bring in funds to their home. That’s good! I see you doing that, Heidi. How about verse 24? Read that for us.

“She makes linen garments and sells them,
    and supplies the merchants with sashes.”

Proverbs 31:24

Jani: Yes. She’s like a delivery woman. She delivers sashes to the merchant.

Jani: And then even verse 31, the way the whole chapter ends, Proverbs 31:31 says, “Let her works praise her in the gates.” I feel after you read through these verses, it’s not just the work of raising her family, but also these public works of making a profit.

Heidi: Yes. But it also says how she “looks well to the ways of her household.” So I love that it’s not either or, it’s “and”.

Our Primary Priority = Those Under Our Roof 12:49

Jani: That’s so good, yes. Verse 27 says,

“She looks well to the ways of her household.”

Proverbs 31:27

She looks after her home. You see, I believe that the Bible makes it clear that women are to make their home a top priority, that the Lord calls us to build a home that will be a little foretaste of heaven for all who enter in, especially as we’re raising our children. So, I think that we can say that if we’re working outside our home, we’re to give as much to our job as that duty requires, we are to “work heartily as to the Lord”, Ephesians 6:7 and Colossians 3:23 says. But we should remember that it’s tent making. This podcast in a sense, Heidi, for us is tent making. We pray that it’s expanding the Lord’s kingdom. We pray that it is helping women find soul rest in Jesus alone. But if one of your babies was sick today, we would have canceled. If Ray needed me, we would have canceled. We would not have recorded because our homes are our top priorities. Our first and greatest ministry is to those under our roof.

Jani: I think of Paul’s compelling words to older women in Titus 2:3-5. Let’s turn there Heidi.

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”

Titus 2:3-5

Jani: I’m an older woman, nearly 70 years old. And what is Paul’s word to me, through the Holy Spirit? I am called to train the younger women to “love their husbands and children.” Now we would think that would be natural, but it’s not, it’s not easy to build a home. It’s not easy to always love your husband and your children. And then he goes on to say, to “train them to be working at home.” Someone in each family needs to consider the home as a career, if not, chaos will reign.

Jani: The Bible clearly affirms the importance of domestic devotion. We can embrace that as women with joy and with a godly pride, I think. Let’s be women who let our marriages, our children, our homes be our primary calling so that when the decision is between this need at home and this need in the marketplace, we lean toward the need at home. Now, I know sometimes the marketplace calls in such a way that you might lose your job if you don’t fulfill that specific need. But what I’m speaking of is a general principle because the gratification of the marketplace will never compare to the joy of building a godly home. Yes, there are going to be days when we feel overwhelmed, aren’t there, Heidi?

Heidi: Many days!

Jani: Yes Heidi, many, many days where we’ll feel lonely, maybe unappreciated, isolated, unrecognized…but no one, dear sister, can replace you as you look well to the ways of your household. Let’s be biblical in how we approach our home duties. Let’s give the gift of attention to those we love most. The formation and maintenance of a stable, godly home honors God. It can be our greatest contribution to society at large and a deep source of personal satisfaction because our homes are eternally significant.

Jani: Now, I pray that my job will be eternally significant too. Heidi, you and I pray about this podcast. We pray about Renewal Ministries, that it will expand Christ’s kingdom. But what if I worked so hard on this that my grandchildren didn’t get to hear about Jesus from me because I was too tired or exhausted or busy? I’d get to the end of my life and say, “Oh, someone else could’ve done that podcast. But no one could have loved my grandchildren.”

Heidi: Yes, I’ll never forget, Jani, one time, a few months ago we were talking about ministry and you said you have to minister for your family first before you’re able to minister to others; that your family is one of the greatest ministries that God has called you to. And that will always stick with me.

Jani: Hmm. We believe that, don’t we, Heidi, at Renewal Ministries and in our relationship, that’s what we believe in. That’s what we try to live.

Some good questions to ask 18:22

Jani: So let’s draw this to a close. If you’re a working mom and struggling with your divided loyalties between home and work, we don’t want to lay more weight on you. We want to lift it from you. So I want to encourage you, bring those divided loyalties to the Lord. How can you go into a deeper level of trust with God in this struggle? How can you ask him to come in and restore your soul as you work through this?

Jani: Ask yourself questions like:

  • “Who receives the most productive hours and freshest energies of my life?”
  • “How could I adjust my commitment somehow so that my family receives the very best I can give them?” (especially with young children in those early years.)

Bring some questions before the Lord. Examine your own heart. He who says, “I will restore your soul” will speak to you.

A prayer for us all 19:34

Jani: Let me pray and we’ll close. “Oh, Father, thank you for making this a little bit tricky for us so that we get to come to you and struggle through what it means to be a woman, a wife, a mother, a career woman. Lord, I pray for each listener. I pray for Heidi. I pray for myself. Lord, show us, guide us, help us, renew us, defend us, protect us against the wiles of the devil. Give us great wisdom, wisdom than more than what our years have produced, wisdom from the Holy Spirit, wisdom from on high in how best to serve you and then come and restore our souls through Jesus Christ, our Lord. In whose name I pray. Amen.”

Thank You

Thank you for joining us today. This podcast is generously funded through Renewal Ministries. If you would like to discover more about Jani and Ray’s ministry or make a donation, visit their website at renewalministries.com. If you have a question for Jani or would like to learn more about this podcast, please visit our website at herestoresmysoul.org.

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He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund seeks to encourage women with God’s renewing power for their busy lives. Episodes include relevant biblical teaching, stimulating gospel conversations with other Christians, and “Ask Jani” sessions where we talk about what’s on our listeners’ hearts.

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