Must Moms Only Be Moms?

When we discovered we were pregnant with our first child, I was teaching writing classes part-time at a Christian college, and I loved my work. I was passionate about it.

But most of the women in our church were stay-at-home moms. I started to wonder, Is it possible to be a mom and simultaneously pursue a calling external to the responsibilities of motherhood? Does motherhood necessitate putting every other passion — like writing or photography or running a small business — on hold for a decade or two?

Of course, there’s no one way to answer this question. It’s not that the question isn’t important — it’s valuable and necessary for us to evaluate our roles and responsibilities when there’s a shift in our season of life. But what isn’t helpful is a black-and-white assumption that every family and season of motherhood should look the same. It can’t. It won’t.

We see this with the women noted throughout the Bible. While we don’t know if all of them were mothers, we do know Priscilla helped her husband with the work of ministry (Acts 18:18, 26), Lydia was a merchant who worked outside of the home (Acts 16:14–15), and multiple women intensely followed and financially supported Jesus during his earthly ministry (Luke 8:2–3). Just as men who followed Christ had different vocations and responsibilities while following their Savior, so did women.

At the same time, the Bible is clear about the high calling of motherhood. Like fathers, mothers are to be honored for their role — a role that God holds so highly that it is upheld even in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:12). Mothers are called to love their children (Titus 2:4) and pass on the Christian faith to them (2 Timothy 1:5). Mothers like Mary and Timothy’s are praised for their faithfulness and character.

To be a mother is no small thing. The calling to invest intentionally and consistently in the lives of your little ones cannot be set aside if God has given you children. Still, what motherhood will look like for every mom is unique, because Christ does not call anyone — including moms — to one cookie-cutter model.

Four Helpful Questions

So, can we pursue any auxilliary passions like hobbies or side businesses while we are moms? Our answers will be as varied as our callings and family circumstances, but I’ve found these four questions helpful in discerning whether or not a personal passion should be pursued alongside of my responsibilities as a mom.

1. Why do I want to pursue this?

Am I embracing the calling of motherhood, or am I simply seeking to enhance my identity in other ways in order to feel significant?

Sometimes, motherhood can feel all-consuming, and we desire a release valve for the pressure of continually attending to the needs of little ones. We may find ourselves turning to other passions to try to escape the demands of motherhood. And while we all need rest and refreshment regularly, we cannot turn to external sources of distraction or work to replace the refreshment that only Christ can give.

So, pay attention to why you want to pursue this passion or opportunity. Do you want to start a small business to strengthen the calling you already have as a wife and mother? Or do you want affirmation from external sources? Do you want to start a blog to bless and encourage readers, or because you’re looking for an identity in the public sphere? The differences may be subtle — usually only known in our hearts — but God can help us discern our motives.

2. What do the people around me say?

Does my husband and my church community support what I want to do?

As with all choices in our lives, it is unwise and ungodly to make them in a vacuum. And as women submitted to Christ, we are called to submit our desires first to our Lord, then to our husband, and then to our church leadership and community.

As we seek their wisdom and input regarding our hope to pursue a new venture, we are choosing to walk in faith that God will sovereignly guide not only us, but them. We are also choosing the path of humility as we acknowledge that our own desires to do good things can be tainted by sinful motivations.

3. How will this affect my family?

Will my husband and children suffer or thrive as a result of my pursuing this passion?

No matter how thrilling the opportunity to pursue what we love might be, the call of Christ is always to put people before things — to put others before ourselves (1 Peter 4:10; Galatians 5:13). This is the way of the cross, and it is also difficult to do daily as a mom! But it is the way we are called to live.

This doesn’t mean that we squash our desires and ignore how God created us, but it does mean acknowledging that some seasons of life will require more from us than others. And sometimes that means putting our desires and passions on hold while we care for the precious lives immediately in front of us.

4. What is the potential impact?

Whatever it is I want to pursue — starting a side business, writing for publication, taking art lessons — what will be the fruit of this pursuit in my life and in the lives of other people?

We should be honest with ourselves. Will pursuing this passion bring about more joy and peace, not only for us, but also for our family? Will it offer new ways for us to live out the kingdom calling of loving our neighbor, making disciples, and sharing the gospel? Or will it pull us into isolation, self-focus, and hoarding our time?

Answers to questions like these will help us determine the wisest path forward.

Refreshment and Renewal

No matter what your season of motherhood looks like, God can meet your need for refreshment and renewal right where you are, regardless of whether that includes pursuing an external passion or not. He sees you and he loves you, and your identity is secure in Christ.

As moms, we can take heart that when we are obeying our Lord above all else, he delights to work out the details of our callings and passions as we walk in step with him.