Sunday, January 27, 2008

Woman Come Home

Woman Come Home:
My Personal Journey from
Career Woman to Contented Homemaker
By Arden Sleadd

During my engagement to John in 1983, we watched the film series, “Focus on the Family” with Dr. James Dobson. The film was very influential in shaping how we would raise our future family. We agreed that it would be best if I were able to stay home fulltime with the children once they were born; but in the meantime, we had college debts to pay off, and John still had coursework to finish, so we delayed starting our family, and I continued to work as I had done before we married.
Our first child, Naomi, was born a month after John completed his teacher certification. He soon found his first teaching job in another state. In the weeks that we prepared to move with our newborn baby, I received a call from the school district John was about to work for, asking me to work for them as well. It entailed only one hour a day, teaching remedial math at the high school. They knew I was a certified teacher from comments John had made during his interview. I felt flattered that they would offer me a job sight unseen, and I thought, Well, one hour a day isn’t that much; I’ll still have most of my time at home..., so I accepted their offer.
A week later the phone rang again: “Would you be willing to teach a second class, in Music Theory and Piano?” Now they were really talking my language; that was in my area of certification. The one hour a day had become two hours, but that still seemed manageable, so I said yes.
Weeks later we had moved to California, away from any family members, and we were suddenly faced with the reality of finding a stranger to leave our child with every day, five days a week. I hadn’t really thought about that. We inquired among staff at the school and at the church we visited for daycare providers. While we did find some very nice Christian ladies offering daycare in their homes, we still ended up using five different caregivers in the ensuing four years.
I soon found another unintended consequence, related to my heart. I really enjoyed my work; I found myself drawn to the work environment. I wanted to be a good, thorough, loyal employee. So by the time I had written lesson plans, cleaned up the classroom, graded papers, and driven back and forth to daycare, I was actually away from my daughter (and later Nathan my son) for four hours a day. The one hour had stretched into four, and the daily routine of dropping them off meant they still went through the separation experience five times a week.
By the time Naomi was two years old, I began to observe some disturbing behaviors in her. She started a habit of screaming and kicking all the way home in her car seat after I picked her up. I soon learned about “separation anxiety”, and I knew instinctively this was her problem. Every day I was rush-rush-rushing to get her dressed and out the door, leaving her to bond with another woman for four hours a day, only to whisk her away again, feed her lunch and put her down for a nap. She was getting the message loud and clear: my schedule, my job, my need to be someplace else, was more important to me than she was. She was feeling rejected repeatedly, day in and day out. 

She expressed her feelings of rejection by being uncooperative whenever I came to take her home from the babysitters. I got her message loud and clear as well: “If you reject me by dropping me off here every day, I’m rejecting you when you take me back.”
I shared my concern with John, and after some discussion about our finances, we decided that I would work for two more years. But that was as long as a lifetime to Naomi; I should have quit that very day and bit the financial bullet. Our relationship was already in disrepair. We were not bonded together like they should have been.
I did finally come home to stay after the birth of Aaron, our third-born child, but the repercussions of my early mistakes followed us for many years. Naomi had learned to seek friendships outside the home and to withhold her heart from me.  By the time she reached fourth grade she had no desire to be homeschooled (I had been homeschooling from kindergarten on). When she was eleven years old, I remember saying to John, “I’ve lost my daughter. Things are not right between us”.
Pastor S. M. Davis has produced some teaching tapes called “Changing the Heart of a Rebel”, and  “Why the Devil Wants Your Firstborn”. The titles alone are powerful. If things aren’t right with the oldest child, it flows down to all the rest of the siblings and infects the whole family. Pastor Davis gave us some concrete steps that have helped us to win our children’s hearts back, and by following his advice we have largely succeeded.
I’m happy to say that as a result of my husband’s responding to the Holy Spirit, and his repentant soft heart while he reclaimed leadership in our home, most of the “lost territory” of Naomi’s heart has been reclaimed. I am in awe at how God has worked to turn her back to us, as a result of her father doing so first. I couldn’t have done it on my own, though heaven knows I tried. It was John who had to lead before the changes could occur.
I share this with you by way of warning to you mothers, and to you young ladies as future mothers, to guard your heart carefully. I know it is possible that you could have a job outside the home and never be drawn away like I was; but how would you know ahead of time?
There is an almost seductive quality to the workplace.* I’ve had women say to me, “Oh, but I love my job,” and, “I use my job as a ministry.” Of course, you love your job! There are adults there; you can put your best face forward and look like you’ve really got it together; you get tangible rewards for your work (i.e. money) and intangible rewards as well. It strokes our egos. But that should be all the more reason to stay away from the workplace.
It is no wonder God says this in His Word, “The aged women likewise...that they may teach the young women their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the Word of God be not blasphemed.” (Titus 2:3-5, KJV) Those are strong words. The word in the Greek for “keeper” here means literally one who guards; the gate-keeper keeps the gate by not allowing intruders through; a home-keeper doesn’t just clean house and cook; she guards the home with her very presence. She guards it not only from intruders, but from negative influences that may invade her home; she protects the atmosphere there; she sets the tone for the home environment. She is home-centered. It would be difficult to keep a home very well while absent most of the time.
I have experienced three pitfalls that a woman risks falling into if she seeks a career outside the home.
Pitfall #1: A woman may find her own heart and loyalties become divided. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:21, KJV) Have you ever considered that one of your greatest treasures is your time? If you divide your time between your home and your job, you may find that your heart, and your loyalties, may be divided as well. Jesus said, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon”—or, money.
When I worked for another boss outside the home, it was no longer my husband who called the shots for me—it was my boss. The boss determined my schedule, my time use--which was my life. In contrast, the scriptures indicate that my husband is my lord, with a lower-case l. Sarah called Abraham “my lord,” and she was praised for it in the New Testament (1 Peter 3:6). God is our Lord with a capital L.
When you become a wife, you become your husband’s helpmate, working side by side with him to gain dominion for the Lord. But when you work for another man or woman, your loyalties are inevitably divided.
Our children’s hearts are even more tender. They’re looking for a place to camp. They will naturally bond with the daycare workers and teachers who come and go out of their lives, and their hearts will be wrenched each time. Protect your children’s hearts.
Pitfall #2: the health of a woman and her children may be compromised. Daycare nurseries are virtual germ factories (as are the public schools, by the way). When I was working I felt pressure to work even when my children were sick. Oftentimes I went back to work when they were still not fully recovered. I am convinced that my own overwork during those child-bearing years contributed to my contracting a chronic disease which I fight to this day.
Pitfall #3: the Word of God may be blasphemed. See Titus 2:5 again: we are to be keepers at home, that the word of God be not blasphemed. Other translations use the words dishonored and reviled. Do we, as women who claim the name of Christ, really want to take the risk of blaspheming God’s word? That is a heavy responsibility placed on us in this passage, but we cannot escape it. Note that Paul addresses not mothers alone, or even wives alone, but all women—young women in particular. That would include our single young ladies—of any age.
As a side note for young unmarried maidens, my advice is this: if you will learn to serve your father in your home, and seek to find delight and contentment through honoring your father, you will be much better prepared to serve your future husband. If you want to be a great wife some day, start practicing on your dad. You don’t hear that kind of advice in very many circles today; it sounds so out-of-place in our contemporary world. But there was a day when it was a foregone conclusion that young ladies sought their fathers’ company and drew strength from it. It is a biblical concept as well; honor your earthly father in every way, and your heavenly Father will greatly bless you.
I realize there are circumstances that would warrant a woman working outside her home. I don’t pretend to have all the answers. My life has been greatly blessed by women doctors, midwives, and nurses who have cared for me through childbearing and various health problems, and I am grateful to them. What I do know, is that God will not call any of us to contradict His word, and if we ask Him, He will show us the way to be obedient to it.
I find it rather puzzling to observe several homeschooling mothers who have devoted themselves full-time all their married lives to the honorable profession of training up their children in the fear of the Lord, but who are now encouraging, even urging, their grown daughters to find careers outside the home. Why is this?
I have now been a full-time homemaker for over twenty years, and I can honestly say that home is my favorite place to be. I find so much there to fulfill and stretch me as a person, as well as to minister to others. Our home has become a gathering place for other families who come into our lives, for food, fun, and fellowship. My life is rich with the fatness of joy and laughter, mixed with the hard times. There is no place I’d rather be.
So I say to you, dear mother, or young lady: Is your heart wandering? Are you looking outside the walls of your own home for fulfillment, searching for another place to camp? Or is your heart centered on home? My life is living testimony to the fact that God is able to change our hearts and give us contentment and joy unspeakable through serving our families at home. Will you trust Him to do such a work for you?
The Sleadd Clan. Back Row, l-to-r: Caleb, Nathanael and Naomi Phillips,
Colleen and Nathan Sleadd, Emily and Aaron Sleadd, Alexa
Front Row, l-to-r: John; Voyla Steves, matriarch; Arden

Update, July 2014: Naomi is now the happy mother of four children, and my best friend! My younger daughter Alexa just turned 21. She works for my son Nathan at as a marketing graphics designer, outside the home, while still living with us. She intends to quit working when she is married. She has not lost her vision as a woman come home. I am thankful for that.

*Caveat: I am not opposed to women making money. There are many opportunities to work at home. The ideal situation is for both husband and wife to work at home together. This is not practical for many, including our own family, but it is an ideal to consider.

Resources Recommended
Changing the Heart of a Rebel, and Why Satan Wants Your Firstborn, Dr. S. M. Davis, Teaching tapes available on CD and DVD,

Arden Sleadd is the home-educating mother of five children and grandmother of eight. She is an independent distributor for Young Living Essential Oils, Member #1579733. See her business page, Arden's Garden, on Facebook. Her husband John is pastor of Household of Faith Community Church of Grants Pass.

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