Reader Question: I’m a mom who stays home with three little girls, all younger than 5 years old. I’ve always been grateful for the time I get to spend with them and a little jealous that my husband got to leave the house for a job he finds challenging and energizing
Now he’s working at home, and I can hear just how meaningful and interesting his day is! It can be so discouraging to slog through diapers and spit up and time outs, only to have him pop out for a few minutes of snuggling or playing, then go back to chatting and laughing with colleagues. I keep thinking I’m doing the hard stuff and he gets the good stuff, even though I know that’s not true—after all, his paycheck lets me stay home in the first place. And certainly his job has difficult and boring parts.
I hate the envy I feel. How can I fight this?
As a mom of three who’s primarily stayed at home for the past eight years (while my husband worked from home for five years), I get you. It’s hard. And I hope you see God’s grace at work in you, evidenced by your desire to fight sin. Discontentment and envy are common snares—it’s only by grace that we struggle against them!
To begin, it’s important to untangle the various struggles and temptations of our hearts. Then I’ll suggest a few practical tips.
1. Resist and Repent of Sin
The more constant the temptation, the more calloused our hearts can become. Since you’re in a season when the temptation to envy is stronger than before, it is especially important to cultivate a soft heart. When you feel pangs of envy rising, stop and pray. Remember the wisdom of Proverbs: “A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot” (14:30). Envy isn’t only a sin against God—it will also make you miserable.
Share your struggles with your husband—not to punish or hurt him, but with gentleness and vulnerability. Let him know if there are ways he can pray for you or care for you.
Also consider opening up to trusted friends, calling them when you need prayer. If you can get a minute alone, meditate on Scripture. If you can’t, hum a hymn or dance to worship music with your children. Take deep breaths.
When feeling tempted, the sooner we reorient our hearts to God the better.
And when you fail, and the Spirit convicts you of ways you’ve grumbled about your circumstances and envied your husband’s, repent and rejoice in your forgiveness through Christ. When our sin feels habitual, it’s tempting to embrace a spirit of resignation. Have hope for tomorrow—God’s mercies are new every day.
2. Recognize the Sacredness of Your Work
One reason stay-at-home moms often struggle is because we fail to see the fruit of our labor. Where others complete projects and reach goals, we feel like every item we check off our list gets undone by our children. In addition, without adult colleagues to laugh with, bounce ideas off, or be encouraged by on hard days, our work feels isolating. As a result, we can lose sight of the sacredness of our work.
But Jesus loves the little children, and through thousands of ordinary ways, we get to show his love to ours.
Whether we are reading them Bible stories, answering questions, or patiently addressing their sin, we are demonstrating the intimate love of a Father who cares about every detail of their lives.
Even in this valuable work, many of our tasks are mundane, and it’s unhelpful to pretend otherwise. You can love staying at home with your kids and still lament when it’s difficult. In those times, God is our refuge. He is a comfort and strength in times of trouble, and our hardships can draw us closer to him. In that, we can always rejoice.
3. Find a New Rhythm
There are ways to make this new living situation work for you, instead of against you.
As you rejoice in your husband’s job and his safety, you can work with him so that his breaks help you instead of distract you. If you previously had a good rhythm with the kids (steady times for things like meals, naps, playing outside, watching a show), or are working your way into a new one, think with him about when you could use an extra set of hands.
Maybe he could schedule his meetings so that he can eat lunch with the girls while you enjoy a few minutes alone or get caught up on laundry. Or maybe he could read them a book or two right before their nap times to start settling them down. Or maybe he could take all three on a late afternoon walk while you make dinner (or vice versa). Together, structure his time so that his breaks are helpful for him, for you, and for the girls.
Ask him, also, how you might help him during the day. Are there times he could use a fresh cup of coffee and you could take it in to him? Are there meetings he’d like you to pray for? Are there times he’d like you to take the girls outside or put on a show so that the house is quiet? This is different for him, too, and there may be ways you can ease his transition to working from home.
Through all of the mundane of dishes and diapers and online meetings, you both have the opportunity to glorify God by serving with joy. Imitate the humility of our Savior, who laid aside a crown to wash dirty feet.
Author’s note: This article was first published at The Gospel Coalition