Yesterday my sister told me about another family from our church. The mom was all set to go back to work full-time after maternity leave (serious baby boom over at 1027 church). She loves her work, is good at it, and has always planned on being a working mom, at least since I’ve known her. And suddenly and unexpectedly the Lord provided a way for her to go back only part-time. And today the only other full-time working mom told me she had quit her job and was hired part-time elsewhere.
I know that these stories have nothing to do with me. Really I do. I know that no one but my family bases their decisions on what is best for me and my kids. But somehow this felt very personal to me. She was supposed to be my working mom friend. My one friend who the Lord called to the same place He called me.
DISCLAIMER: If you are reading this right now and thinking, what the heck I am a full-time working mom that is following hard after Jesus, don’t I count? The answer is probably you do count, the Lord was taking me through something. And I am sorry, I should have thought of you, I was just being self-centered. I am working on it.
I suppose I should have heard this story and thought, wow, just as the Lord moved a woman’s heart, He provided the means to follow that dream…..and I should have been encouraged. And I suppose that today I should have heard that if the Lord wants to move me out of teaching full-time, He will, just as He did this woman. Instead I heard that God didn’t have the same thing for someone else as He had for me, and I began seriously doubting myself.
What if those Christians who insist that anyone other than the mother being the primary care-giver is against God’s plan are right? What if I only thought we have been openly praying and seeking the Lord’s will in our life but really I am just totally closed off to the possibility of not working, so God can’t tell me even though I sought Him for a month with what I thought was no agenda but I really did have an agenda I just didn’t know it? Wow…that last sentence did not seem that ridiculous in my head, in fact it kind of made sense. Now it is just really embarrassing.
Anyway, I was having some serious working-mom issues. Like, if I only wanted to be with my girls bad enough, God would provide a way. Or, the women who stay at home more than me, they are better mother’s than I. God has me working because I am not a good mom. Or most ridiculously, I should at least be miserable in my situation. Liking my life as it is right now, spending 40 hours a week away from my kiddo’s speaks to my ineptitude as a parent. Every moment I am not with them should kill me. I am a bad person for enjoying myself at work. It means my kids are not my greatest treasure.
As I type this out I can see how absurd it truly is. I had teachers in High school who hated their job, those classes were miserable even if I liked the subject. But my tenth grade English teacher, and my ninth and tenth grade history teachers, and the entire Spanish department at Whitmer High School (shout out to Senora Jaeger!) they really enjoyed what they did, and it ministered to me. I still remember their names and the things they taught me. And I remember how they seemed to like me and my class mates and the things we were learning. I know that me getting such a kick out of my job most days is beneficial to my students. I hope my girls have teachers who enjoy their jobs. Feel called to them even.
Beyond that, I have prayed repeatedly that God’s will be done. And rather than have me hit it big on the blog scene and get offered a book deal for the book I have yet to write, He put me in a relationship with Elizabeth and her kids, expanded my family in ways I did not know were possible, and allowed me to truly live the gospel. This semester we changed the kids schedule for the first time in a year and a half. The same semester we moved from Tuesdays and Thursdays to Mondays and Wednesdays, an employment opportunity landed in her lap for Thursdays.
God has so clearly gone before me. In school switches, in child-care, in moving to Atlanta. But none of the other women in my church are doing it this way. So I doubt. Even though I am happier when I am working, and my marriage is better, and I never ever doubt that my kids are being loved as well as I could love them.
No one from my church has ever made me feel anything but encouraged as far as my work is concerned. But there is something about doing anything in a way that isn’t normal, especially within the larger Christian culture, that doesn’t sit right. I have heard one too many speakers insinuate that a woman’s place is in the home, her only place. Read one too many “Biblical Woman” bible study that cites any woman’s greatest work as her submission to her husband. And while I know these things are not true, there was a piece of my heart that believed them.
I am replacing those lies with this truth. My mother-in-law worked. And the Lord provided her with a woman named Fay to take care of her children. Christian stills speak fondly of Fay. Christian doesn’t say that his mom didn’t invest in him or that she loved her job more than him. He says “Mom worked really hard, and our family is still reaping the fruit of that today” and “Fay was awesome.”
Those of us who were really into the youth group circuit when I Kissed Dating Goodbye came out are used to this narrative: I am a Christian. God spoke into my heart that I was supposed to do (fill in the blank) this certain way. Which make this certain way God’s way. Period. For everyone, not just for me. Do it that way.
While this would certainly make being a Christian easier, I am learning daily that God does have some certain way kind of words: with kindness, with gentleness, prayerfully, lovingly, faithfully. That is the way God wants me to mother, to teach, to live. And that is hard for us, because it looks different for everyone, there is no set path.
I am a good mom because I am following God’s design for my family in this season, as are everyone else that I mentioned here. Maybe that doesn’t look like anyone else’s path (Seriously, anyone else a sitter-swapper out there…..anyone?) and maybe that is just fine. With me and with God.
Seasons change. Trust the Lord has you just where you are supposed to be. Rest in it…and if He changes your season, I feel confident you will move accordingly.
And if….what a great way to describe my heart right now. I am really happy with where I am at…but there is an and if there. The space where I let God move.
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Stumbled across this blog – very relevant to me. I recently returned to work after having my first child, and I initially felt almost guilty about how much I am enjoying myself. I am a doctor, and I spent years training for what I do. I delayed childbearing, but I have always known God has called me to be a mother as well as a doctor. I am blissfully happy – happy in my marriage, happy with God, happy in my job, and happy as a new mother. I am a BETTER mother because I am walking in God’s calling. But just like you – I’m “the only one” in my church that works. I have felt the silent questioning of my parents’ generation of mothers. “Who’s going to take care of him?” is not an uncommon question. You know what my answer is? GOD is. He’s going to take care of all of us. Isn’t there peace and freedom in walking in obedience to His voice as he speaks his individualized and perfect plan to each of us! Blessings to you.
Amen Jaclyn, Amen.
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I am there with you! I have been working off and on for several years. I just went back to work after being between jobs and home for about 3 months. I have recently realized that I am a better mom and wife when I am working. When I am home all the time, I feel aimless, I tend to get a little depressed and I feel like I am letting my kids down. When I am going to work a few days a week, I feel more purposeful, I have more focus and am in a much better mood all around. I felt guilty coming to this revelation! Aren’t I supposed to WANT to stay home?
I am now having to choose between taking a full time 5 day a week job with benefits and continuing in a part time, unbenefited position, that allows me more flexibility and more time at home. You should hear the battle going on in my head! =) Thanks for the post, it is good to know I am not alone in my doubts. Pray pray pray, that is the answer! =)
God created you UNIQUELY, just like everyone else! So that means your answer may not look like everyone elses. Praying for wisdom for you and your family.
Thank you so much for sharing this. I am struggling on a Monday morning at work, missing my baby and wondering if I am “doing the right thing”. Nevermind that, as you said, this is where God has called our family in this moment and he wants us to rest in it, not agonize over how our lives compare to those of others. I am so glad He led me to your words today. God bless you and your family!
So glad I stumbled upon this. I have started to work full time for the first time in the past year. My husband and I knew that God was calling me to work full time for a few years after graduating as a new nurse practitioner, to get some experience under my belt. With two kids, and the third on the way, I have recently been struggling with this call. I, like you, find myself comparing my worth as a mother to those who stay at home with their kids. Thank-you for your encouragement! My favorite quote is “I am a good mom because I am following God’s design for my family in this season.”
I am so glad you found me! I started back to school this week and am exhausted, but also glad to be back. I will be praying for you today, that you would be affirmed.
Thank you so much for this post. I’ve been working full time since my daughter was 4 months old. She’s 4 now and there’s not a week that goes by when I don’t feel some guilt about being a working mother. It seems most prominant after church on Sundays, when I interact with all of the other moms who are home with their kiddos. There’s never anything explicit said- it’s just an overall unspoken feeling that the right way is to be home, and that I can’t be serving my family if I’m working. Thank you for piping up as another Christian working mom- there are few enough of us out there and I feel blessed to hear your story and struggles. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you for sharing – I am a first time mom who is just now back to work. I am blessed with a job that makes a big financial difference for our family, but am surrounded by moms who do not work, including my own mother who I know would prefer me to stay at home with my precious little one. “Mommy guilt” is sooo hard, and I am still figuring it out every day. But at the end of the day, no matter how much I love my LO, what I want him to know is that Jesus loves him more. And like you said, God is the one who takes care of him, not me. Hugs.
Thank you for your post! I have struggled with the same thoughts as I returned to work. The Lord has made provisions to have a flexible schedule, but it still pains me to drop my daughter off. Elisabeth Elliot has been a huge encouragement to me, in that, we are all called, but some of us are called to be wives, mothers and have a vocation. Though this path is difficult, you have been chosen to be a light for Him in your daily work.
Stumbled upon this old post today, and i can so relate. I have 2 tiny tots (6 months and 26 months) and i work full time in a very busy law practice. its not uncommon at night or weekends to find me juggling feeding my toddler, nursing my baby and typing on my laptop. i know i do my best, i’m there for them as much as i can be (even if it means going without sleep so i can play with them before working on a brief), and my husband is there to fill the gap between daycare and when i come home at night; but the guilt remains. its summer now and pre-school’s out but i still drop my kids off at the school early every morning for daycare because i have to work. the first day when they got picked, my daughter sadly informed me “mum everybody’s gone”. i felt like the worst mum ever in that moment.
i do encourage myself in my low moments though, and remember to be thankful that i have a supportive husband, that my children don’t have special needs that would make it even harder, that they are happy at daycare and well adjusted (you hear so many day care horror stories) and that i have a great job where i’m making a difference.
in the end we all have different stories, but God’s got us all.