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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Breadwinning Moms

More women balance careers and family

By Christina Quick
May 11, 2014

Decades ago, the typical American family included a working dad and a stay-at-home mom. Today, it’s a vastly different world. More moms punch time clocks, fight wars, fly to business meetings, and climb corporate ladders. They also shoulder an increasingly large share of the financial burden for their families.

Mothers are now the sole or primary breadwinners in an unprecedented 4 out of 10 U.S. households with children, according to a new Pew Research Center report.

Increased participation by women in the workforce accounts for much of the shift. In 1968, only 37 percent of married women with children worked outside the home. Today, balancing the demands of children and bosses is the norm for moms, with 65 percent of married mothers employed.

While many applaud the number of women bringing home the bacon, juggling a career and motherhood isn’t always easy.

“Today’s mothers are stretched beyond anything we’ve ever seen,” says Melanie Griffin, Women’s Ministries director for the Assemblies of God South Texas District. “Multitasking doesn’t even describe it anymore, because the things we do every day are more than just tasks. We’re multi-managers. Moms are working long hours and then going to the ball fields with their children. They’re serving as vice presidents and then serving dinner. Today’s mothers are all over the map.”

Griffin speaks from experience. The mother of a teenager and two adult children, she works full time, cares for her aging parents, and serves in ministry alongside her husband, Kevin, lead pastor at Cornerstone Church, an AG congregation in Winnie, Texas. She says she can relate to the breadwinning mothers she meets at women’s conferences and other church events across the country.

“I always have suitcases packed because I travel two to three times a month,” Griffin says. “I have my church calendar, my district calendar and my family calendar — and they stay full. Like so many of the mothers I encounter, my to-do list is never really finished. At the end of the day, I have to roll it over on the Lord. Otherwise, I would never feel I measured up in all the roles and expectations I have for myself.”

Among breadwinning mothers, 37 percent are married women earning bigger paychecks than their husbands. The remaining 63 percent are single moms, many of whom struggle to make ends meet.

The number of households headed by single mothers is on the rise, with about half of first births happening outside of wedlock and many marriages ending in divorce. The median income for unmarried working mothers is $23,000, far short of the national median of $57,100 for all families with children.

Dennis Franck, director of Single Adult Ministries for the Assemblies of God, says the church can make a tremendous impact by reaching out to these struggling families.

“Half of single moms are living below the poverty line,” Franck says. “They’re worn out, stressed out, and waiting for someone to show them the love of Christ.”

Franck says many children’s pastors and youth leaders report that at least a third of their young attendees come from single-parent homes.

“We do have a good representation in the church, at least among the kids,” Franck says. “But there is more we can do. We need to be intentional about welcoming single-parent families, including them, and meeting some of their needs in practical ways. Simple gestures, like helping with child care or doing home repairs for single moms, can mean so much.”

Lois Breit, an Assemblies of God U.S. missionary to single moms based in Bradenton, Fla., says many single mothers long for a place of encouragement and support yet feel uncomfortable in church.

“Most of them don’t come from a church background, and they are afraid they will be judged and criticized if they go to church,” Breit says. “When they do attend, it’s important that we let them know we care. If they feel welcome and their kids feel welcome, it makes a huge difference.”

Maintaining a job, raising kids and taking care of household duties can be a strain on any woman. But for single moms, the stress is often overwhelming, Breit says.

Breit’s five children were between the ages of 2 and 11 when she became a single mom and had to return to work.

“There’s a constant weariness,” Breit says. “You’re working all day, then coming home at night and taking kids to activities or helping them with their homework — all without the help of a spouse. It doesn’t take long before you’re completely worn out.”

Single-mother households represent a quarter of U.S. families with children today. That number has more than tripled since 1960, when single mothers led only 7 percent of households with kids.

In the Pew survey, 64 percent of respondents said this trend is a “big problem.” However, Americans are less concerned about it than they were seven years ago, when 71 percent felt that way.

Only 42 percent of adults under age 30 see the rise in single motherhood as troubling, compared with 65 percent of those in their 30s and 40s, and 74 percent of those 50 and older.

Americans are divided in their attitudes about working mothers in general. About half of those surveyed said children are better off if a mother doesn’t work outside the home. Yet 8 in 10 disagree with the idea that women should return to their traditional roles in society.

Griffin says trying to turn back the clock isn’t the answer. She says all mothers — whether they work, stay home, or manage a household alone — want respect, encouragement and a place to belong.

“The church that is going to move forward will recognize the value and contribution of women in their families, their workplaces, their communities, and God’s kingdom,” Griffin says. “The church should pour into women’s lives so they can pour into the lives of those around them.”

Griffin says church is the ideal place for busy working moms to find the support network they need.

She says when a businesswoman at her church was unable to make it to her fifth-grade son’s school program, a member of her working moms small group attended in her place. She sat in the front row, holding a photo of the boy’s mom.

“That kid saw it and was thrilled she was there,” Griffin says. “When all the other moms came running up afterwards, she was a stand-in mom and said, ‘Oh, your mom is so proud! Let’s send her some pictures!’”

Griffin says this is an example of the church being the extended family many mothers crave.

“The life of a woman today has reached the speed that they need the help of the Holy Spirit and the support of church families more than ever,” Griffin says. “To me, that’s the only way a mom can reasonably manage it all.”

CHRISTINA QUICK is a freelance writer, former Pentecostal Evangel staff writer, and mother of two teenage children.


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