To you who have chosen and dared to not stay at home and raise your kids. Don’t worry. I’m not here to bash your career choices and hail all mothers to stay-at-home. I actually admire you because I know the work it takes to work AND be a mom. ALOT. From one former working mom to another, I just want to encourage you.
For about five years, I was a full-time, licensed 7th grade language arts teacher. It’s what I went to college for and got my degree in. But geez, they don’t quite prepare you for the actually LIFE of being a teacher. That meant I didn’t have a 9-5, but an 8 to whenever I crashed on top of my half-graded papers and unfinished presentation. It was stressful for me, more times than others (ESPECIALLY considering I was pregnant twice during the time of two administrative changes while being legally written up because an atheist was offended I was doing missions for Jesus and dared to say His name… geez!). None of this includes just the reality of my 7th graders – fickle emotions, awkward hormones, learning challenges, homelessness, custody battles, probations, arrests, drug use on-campus, guns in class. It was all there in those years, and to this day, THEY are honestly the ONLY reasons why I miss teaching, issues and all. It was the paperwork that was stressful.
What I didn’t realize until later was how that stress affected my husband and later our firstborn (because I resigned when the 2nd child was born). From that season in my life, GOD & PRAYER, conversations with my husband and great wisdom from some awesome working moms, I gradually learned how to balance it all… until I just couldn’t due to circumstances.
So working mom, be encouraged and…
… establish a sincere relationship with God through prayer. Due to the circumstances surrounding my school at my initial hiring, my first year experience with 80% of my students could have been equivalent to Dangerous Minds. In the first 2 months, I was cussed out, had sharp objects thrown at me, and threatened. Yet, I was never fearful (that still baffles me) because God and I had SEVERAL moments and conversations about EVERYthing. The kids’ behaviors. My responses. Lesson plans. Strategies. He gave me peace through the storm… well, hurricanes and tornados. Yes, I had great knowledge about education and teaching from amazing institutions (UNCG & Meredith!) but it paled in comparison to what God taught me. I encourage you to establish this relationship. Strategize WITH God at work because no level of degree or certification can solely match what you will see Him do through you and around you. None.
… fight the guilt. Due to circumstance, some of you just can’t NOT work. I had a four year agreement that I could not break because I gave my word and heart to teach. Plus, I didn’t have $36,000 to pay them back if I quit. But I learned this through it all: I was still a mother. Some of you may want so badly to stay-at-home or homeschool your child or just be more present, but you can’t and it eats you up inside. The guilt. The doubtful thoughts about being a good mother. I say to you go before God and talk to Him about who you are and the role you play in your child’s life. Talk to Him about how you can be a mother to them where you are with what you have. He will show you because He definitely showed me. He showed me that my priorities were out of wack. I was self-seeking/selfish. I only thought about getting MY work done to where I failed to use the time I DID have or COULD make to focus on my marriage and our son. I feel as though our first year or two were very hard because I was a newlywed, mother, new teacher and major leader in ministry. I looked at our firstborn with resentment because he (and my new husband) needed more attention than I was willing to sacrifice & give (*gasp*… but I’m not the only one). Due to my selfishness, I often feel our oldest became closer to his dad than to me (not entirely a bad thing). I really had to fast and pray for God to not only forgive me but for me to forgive myself and then to CHANGE. To reconcile me back to my son as his mother and show me the beauty, privilege and sheer fun motherhood is. I view our oldest differently now. And although I miss his younger years, I know I’ve changed and am forgiven by God. And him. This leads me to my next point…
… to the very BEST of your ability, LEAVE WORK AT WORK. Teaching isn’t really a job where you can leave work at work or else you’ll suck as a teacher (yes, I said it). HOWEVER, what I learned in my last year or 2 was to work efficiently during my lunch and planning periods, as well as use my time wisely afterschool before daycare pick-up (when we didn’t have unnecessary meetings). I made a schedule and as I stuck to it, even my husband began to notice how my time at home was filled with LESS teaching business, emotional stories related to student, coworkers and just stress. When you leave work at work, that means you leave the heated conversations, unfair decisions, livid email responses, intense meetings, lazy and bothersome coworkers and all that goes with work… AT WORK. If you can leave the paperwork, that’s even better!!! Your husband wants to be with his wife. Your kids want to be with their mom. Leave your career hat at work or at least in the car. Breathe in. Breathe out. Let it all float there until you get back. You can still answer the question, “How was your day?” Just don’t make it a 2 hour movie. Think sitcom version. 🙂 THIS WAS A LIFE SAVER. Ask my husband. He adored me more my last 2 years of teaching 🙂 That’s probably why baby #2 got here… so I wouldn’t have to work anymore LOL!
… learn to say NO. I love to say yes. Or at least I wanted to be the person who loved to say yes. That was until I had emotional breakdowns and realized “no” needed to be my close friend for a while. My marriage was silently breaking and my parenting was horrible. As a believer, how could I represent Christ well like this? You know all of the responsibilities you carry in your life, whether it’s being a wife, mother, employee/employer, community or ministry leader, etc. You want to do everything in excellence. However, when you decide to be a goddess or superhero of some sort and say “yes” or “okay” to PTA and Community Leadership and Project Manager and Couples Coordinator and Sports Liason and whatever else, you will be overspent and find yourself half-doing your other “jobs”. You will have nothing left at home to give but ungodly responses to your husband and children because just MAYBE you told the god of your “servant heart” or the god of people’s opinions “yes” instead of asking God what you should do. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to serve or be challenged in taking on a new project. Just move by God’s will and not your own. He knows more about you than YOU do, so He probably knows the true intentions behind your actions and that the weight you’re seeking to carry was never one He intended for you to have in the first place. Maybe because HE wouldn’t REALLY be glorified in you doing it. You would.
… schedule non work-related activities. Literally… schedule them. PUT THEM ON YOUR CALENDAR LIKE THEY’RE DOCTOR APPOINTMENTS!!! This, unfortunately, is something I didn’t learn until last year. Due to various changes in family to career to ministry, my schedule shifted alot. Thankfully, God convicted me and pushed me to bring order to my life, even restoring some vital relationships. People I hadn’t really talked with in almost 10 years who prayed me through hell and back. Don’t be me! SCHEDULE time to spend with others outside of work. This helps you put the reality of life into view. Plan a date with your husband. Plan dates with your kids. Have a weekend brunch with friends. Join a fitness meetup or club. Go grocery shopping with your mom. Schedule playdates. Go to a social paint night. Volunteer at a community center or home-building program. It helps you to breathe. Meet new people. To live and see your career isn’t everything. God is, and He’s placed certain people and opportunities in your life to show you that.
… take mental health days. You don’t have to explain yourself. I didn’t! I just put in my paperwork, requested my substitute and organized my lesson plans. I saved my students’ lives taking these days (LOL), as well as my family’s. I didn’t answer phone calls or text messages. I wore my husband’s sweatpants, ate cereal, had funny and serious convos with God, read, watched a movie (or had it watch me), and made sure I didn’t forget to pick up my child from daycare. No one is superhuman. Even God took a mental health day; creation was WORK! Now that I think about it… there should be a company of substitutes for stay-at-home moms who need a MHD. Hm…
Colossians 3 is a chapter known fairly well for a particular passage about the individual roles in a family. I find it interesting that after it talks to the wife, husband, children, fathers and even bond-servants, it gives clear instructions on HOW to do those roles:
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24
It’s okay, working mom. Do your job. I hope and pray that you do it well so others can glorify God as they watch you honestly work for the Lord. However, when work is over and maybe even the career itself has come to an end, you will still be a mother (and/or wife). Most importantly, a child of God. And that is a job title you will have for the rest of your life. So do it well too. Even better.