Should Catholic moms stay at home? Not necessarily.

Is it wrong for a mother to work outside the home? In general, society says no. But in some Catholic circles, the norm might reflect otherwise. Does the Church teach that in order to fulfill their vocations as wife and mother, moms should stay at home with their children?

“I’m a working mom and I was told that it’s a mortal sin—that it’s grave matter—for women to work outside of the home,” said Ann from California.

“That’s not true,” said Patrick. “And the Church does not teach that.”

Ann admitted that it was unsettling to hear, and that she takes mortal sin very seriously so she wanted to be sure that she was not sinning as a working mother.

“The Church does not teach that women are committing a mortal sin if they work outside the home—specifically moms. Sometimes it’s a matter of necessity—you just don’t have a choice. … But it often happens that because of financial necessity … mom does some work outside the home to make ends meet. There’s nothing whatsoever wrong with that,” explained Patrick.

If a mother chooses to work outside the home and there is no serious financial reason for her to do so, does she have a heightened obligation to stay home? “This is where there is a bit of a gray area,” says Patrick. “The Church does teach as a general precept that parents are obliged and we have this serious duty before God to do everything we can within our abilities and to the extent that we know better, to do everything we can to see to the upbringing of our children.”

“If there was a situation that there was detriment to the kids by mom being absent from the home and there’s no need for her to be out there working—as you said, financially there’s enough money and then some and yet she’s out working for whatever reason and there’s detriment to the home now. So, home life is suffering, the kids are getting into mischief, things are slipping and sliding—yeah, then you could make a case that you know, this is just not the right decision and I don’t really have a just reason for doing this especially in light of the problems that are creeping into the home. Yeah, then there would be a case, but it wouldn’t be targeted specifically on working outside the home but a neglect of one’s duties.”

The same could be said for dads and a host of various situations. “The Church doesn’t say that you can’t go to, I don’t know, like, a bingo parlor. But if dad, after work, has a gambling addiction and he goes to the bingo parlor and he’s gambling and gambling and not only losing the family’s money but also he’s spending time away from his wife and children to their detriment—he’s committing a sin,” explains Patrick. The Church doesn’t say that having a job or going to a bar are sinful, but they could be the means by which a sin—such as neglecting one’s duty to one’s family—is committed.

Saint Gianna, mother and doctor, patron saint of working mothers, pray for us!

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Lindsey is a wife, mother, and contributing author at Relevant Radio. She holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lindsey enjoys writing, baking, and liturgical living with her young family.