My husband doesn’t make enough money to support us alone. I’d love to stay home and care for the children, but I can’t. How can I keep loving and supporting him without growing bitter?
Because you would rather stay home with your children—which is a great desire—your work outside of the home may feel more like a “have to” than a “want to” or a “get to.” And that sort of situation can be the breeding ground for contempt and bitterness, not only toward your husband but also toward your coworkers and your work itself. So, what can you do about it?
I think you have two options. With God’s help, you could either change your situation or change your heart.
Changing Your Situation
The internet abounds with tips on how to transition from being a “working” mom to a stay-at-home mom. One author has even written a book with 100 tips on how to make it happen.
If you want to stay at home, you could ask your husband to seek a better-paying job or take on a second job. My friend’s husband is a pastor and Uber driver. You could work in the evenings. I have known a few superwomen who worked night shifts a few days a week in order to earn income and be with the children during the daytime hours. You could even work part-time from home while caring for your children. My husband often jokes about how I completed my PhD during naptime.
You could revisit your budget to see where cuts can be made. Or you could relocate to an area of the country with a lower cost of living.
But each of these changes comes with a cost. Cutting the budget could spark financial stress. Moving could take you from the vital support of family and friends. Working long or late hours could interfere with sleep and affect moods. And working part-time from home may mean sometimes meeting with clients or fulfilling orders with a toddler on your lap and graham-cracker crumbs falling onto your keyboard.
Changing Your Heart
Even as you consider changing your situation, I recommend cooperating with God’s Spirit to change your heart.
First, actively work to change your heart toward your husband. Heed Paul’s advice: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:31). We must actively reject bitterness, replacing it with gratitude. Give thanks for your husband. Give thanks for your job. Give thanks for every minute you get to spend with your precious children. Give thanks for your coworkers.
We have to actively choose against bitterness. Replace it with gratitude.
Second, try to change your heart toward your work through “job crafting.” Two management scholars coined the term based on their research on how people experience their work. In their book Make Your Job a Calling, Bryan Dik and Ryan Duffy describe job crafting as “those things that workers do to elicit a strong sense of purpose, meaning, engagement, resilience, and thriving from their jobs.” Dik and Duffy contend that, through job crafting, people can experience the same psychological effects as those who feel a sense of calling to their work.
You can approach job crafting three ways: task crafting, relational crafting, and cognitive crafting. In task crafting, you work to rearrange your job responsibilities so that your job feels like a better fit. Such task crafting may require a conversation with your supervisor and is not possible in every line of work. In relational crafting, you invest in your work relationships. When you invest in those relationships, you might look forward to going to work in order to spend time with your coworkers. In cognitive crafting, you reframe how you understand the purpose of you work. It’s about more than a paycheck. How can you partner with God in his work through your job?
Regardless of which path you choose, I encourage you to trust God. When work is a “have to,” we may place trust in our paycheck when it is ultimately God who provides for us—often through the income and benefits we earn at a job. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus encourages us to ask God, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). And he challenges us not to toil anxiously to meet our everyday needs (Matt. 6:25-32).
He encourages us instead: “Seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33). Seek to honor God in your marriage, in your home, and in your work. And trust him to provide what you and your family need.