A new way of ministering to stay-at-home moms

When a friend posted a Slate article titled “Why Are Stay-At-Home Mothers More Depressed?”, another friend simply commented: “Captain Obvious.”

Indeed, it was to me too. Those of us who’ve been stay-at-home moms or spent any time around stay-at-home moms don’t need a Gallup study to tell us why a woman who spends day after day after day after week after week after week with no one but demanding - if darling - children could get depressed.

Indeed, the study found that 28 percent of at-home moms reported feelings of depression, compared with 17 percent of working moms (which incidentally is the same rate of depression among working women without children). Beyond the depression, Slate reports: “Stay-at-home moms fare worse than these two groups by every emotional measure in the survey, reporting more anger, sadness, stress and worry. They were more likely to describe themselves as struggling and suffering and less likely to see themselves as ‘thriving.’”

Again, all seemed likely - Captain Obvious - to me.

However, what wasn’t Captain Obvious were the real reasons why at-home moms felt so blue. I would’ve guessed it was the isolation, the repetitive - often vacuous - days and the stagnation that drives many at-home moms to despair. While those play a role, according to the Gallup survey, it’s mostly the “financial cost.”

“Economics are at the heart of why mothers without jobs are particularly blue,” according to Slate.

Ah, yes. The money. As my friend Jennifer says, “Money can’t buy you love, but it sure can alleviate stress.”

So what do we do with all this information? Well, the Slate article says we need more laws to protect part-time employee status so that at-home moms have more opportunity to work and get the much-needed money, as well as mental stimulation.

I’d like take a different approach - look another place besides government. Of course, I’m looking right at you, Church.

While most people within and without churches imagine we are doing a great a job ministering to the needs of at-home mothers, this study should give us pause. Because while perhaps mom ministries help moms feel less isolated, if isolation isn’t really the big factor in making moms blue, we ought to rethink our strategy.

While certainly we can continue to offer gathering places for moms to tuck babies into nurseries for two hours to hear speakers (like myself!), to munch on brunch foods, to lament all things potty training and discipline, what if we also ministered to these women by offering a place where moms could actually live out their gifts - in ways that even brought in a buck or two?

What if churches led the way on creating opportunities for at-home moms to find freelance, work-from-home or part-time jobs by assessing (or simply asking about) gifts and abilities, by creating directories, by encouraging fellow Christians to tap into the amazing work potential of the at-home mom?

Back in my early days of motherhood, a call from a former colleague asking if I could help his company with freelance editing and writing saved my sanity in many ways. While clinical depression is not a spiritual issue or something that can be bought off with money, certainly lesser grades of depression or the blues can be kept at bay by reducing stress and by feeling valued.

We Christians do a good job of giving lip-service to the value of the at-home mom and of motherhood in general, but maybe it’s time we focus on giving it some monetary value as well.

What Do You Think?

  • Is it obvious to you that stay-at-home moms would be more likely to report feelings of depression?
  • In your experience, what might be the reasons for these Gallup results?
  • What ways might churches help improve the emotional health of stay-at-home moms?



Comments (7)

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I thought pastors were the depressed, isolated, financially insecure ones. http://network.crcna.org/content/pastors/hi-i-am-pastor, http://www.worldwideprayer.com/pastorsstatistics.html

I suppose the double victims would be the stay at home moms married to pastors. :)

If we’re compiling a list of contributing factors, let’s not just focus on questions of access to all of the normal routes expected by the North American vision of “the good live” of self-fulfillment expressive individualism.

Top of the list that I see are The mommy idolatries (not unrelated to the super-pastor idolatries). Somehow this creature that first endangers your life, then won’t let you sleep for the first six months after you’ve endured the life threatening medical crisis, then is the most self-centered demanding creature the human race produces drives a truck through the young, fragile marriage, etc. etc. This somehow is supposed to be fulfilling, glorious, rapturous because you’re imagining untold visions of validation and affirmation.

Parenthood is substitutionary sacrifice, it is kingdom relational polarity: child’s well being at the parent’s expense.

In North America we pile on the assumption that it shouldn’t interfere with our expected self-expressive track towards personal fulfilment but rather enhance it. I’ve seen illegal immigrant Haitian mothers in the Dominican Republic, they’re expectations don’t quite look the same.

Mothers need all the support the community and the church can afford them, no question about it. The mommy idolatries, however, lead to long term frustration, anger, messed up kids, and the crushing burden of unrealistic expectations uncritiqued by the “super mommy” ideals.

Good parenthood is cruciform. This should shape our expectations and retard our idolatries. pvk


You make an excellent point about the economic anxiety for many stay-at-home parents (I think at-home dads are subject to this as well).

As many of the at-home parents act as primary financial planners and shoppers, there can be a keen awareness of pending financial needs like aging appliances or auto repairs.

There is a constant need to balance an entire household’s needs with what is often a limited income.

One thing I have seen locally that helps a lot of families are church-based consignment sales. The church offers the location, the equipment and the management. Community members prepare and tag their items for sale. Volunteers (church & community) set up, work, and tear down the sale in exchange for early shopping. Sellers are able to pick up or donate remaining items.

I often sell in these sales- and for a few night’s worth of work preparing and tagging items, I can get hundreds of dollars in return- even though I’m selling items at yard sale/thrift store prices.

More people shop the consignment sale than would a yard sale. Sellers don’t need to commit an entire day or afternoon to actually selling the items. It’s safer than Craig’s List and works better for low value items (who wants to write a decent description of a $1 item?).

I think there are a lot of direct-marketing companies that prey on this economic anxiety. There is a reason that so many at-home moms get into businesses that rely on commission-based selling to friends and family.

This is a great question, and I think the churches that can answer it will win a lot of hearts and minds.

I would guess a little respect for what stay-at-home moms do would go a long way.

If you want to boil it down to financial worth of the work CNN estimates the financial value of the various roles fulfilled by most stay-at-home moms to be about $13800. Salary.com has a calculator where individual stay-at-home parents can enter hours spent on each task and zip code to get a more personalized estimate.

For all my child-rearing years I’ve worked at a school and stayed home with the kids during the summer. I worked way harder at home.

After almost 6 years of being a stay at home mom, I found myself in a severe depression with bad anxiety attacks. For quite some time I had no idea that I even had a problem, but I felt resentment and anger toward friends, and especially my husband. After finally coming through and pulling out of it, I realized what had happened. Since then, I have joined the gym, started online schooling full time, and have started enjoying life much more. I am much happier and easier to live with, and have not seen a trace of depression since. It’s a matter of brain activity for me, and having a goal that I can attempt to achieve. (Since then I have also started leading worship in the church I attend). All these things add up to a happier mama!

Yes, yes a little mental work and income would go a long way.  Plus I have found those Mommy Ministries never challenged my mind enough.  We don’t have to dumb down spirituality, just because mommies are nursing and wiping 24/7.  I recall just wishing someone would ask me my opinion on something.  I came out of a high powered job so it was a shocker to instantly be “a nobody” in the church, with former colleagues, everywhere.  I know, unhealthy perspective but that’s where I was then.  Looking back, (I don’t think) I wouldn’t trade those experiences (even the major depression I had) for what I have learned about myself, about Jesus.  But it felt like a huge sacrifice at the time.

So well said. Indeed, we need to start using our minds and our hearts and gifts. I, too, am a consumer of the egg casserole, drop your kids off for two-hours programs but ultimately what gets my soul back into the game is when I’m invited to contribute either socially or financially to an endeavor. I applaud the churches who see the value of helping moms contribute rather than just consume. Oh . . . and by way of shameless self-promotion, I happen to chat a bit about this in my new book ;) . . . . . http://www.amazon.com/Mom-Connection-Creating-Relationships-Motherhood/dp/0800721152

I like your article but I’m not sure I understand why it’s the responsibility of the church to find a mom free lance work.  With the global economy at our fingertips via a keyboard/social media it should excite any mom the opportunities that abound. Having the mind of Christ allows us to use our creativity for the body of Christ.  I don’t believe the Church needs another ministry when we Moms are more than capable of developing our calling.

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