I’m not sure what scares me more—what I’m about to admit or how you might respond. Even though I believe in my dreams, what other people think bothers me still. Trying to describe how it feels to be a working mother is hard and people have strong opinions. You’ve probably encountered some along the way too. You’re not alone in this.
Choosing to be a working mother
No one ever questions a woman who works because she has to—a single mama or someone facing adversity. (Nor should they.) Maybe our families’ good fortunes are what makes it hard for people to understand why we work. What makes the long hours, late nights, and frustration worthwhile when you could just as easily choose not?
You could say we bring this on ourselves because it’s true (mostly). The option exists for us to walk away from our jobs and be full-time stay-at-home mamas. We could adjust our family budgets and make the switch. Maybe it even seems like an easy choice: trade work and frustration for more time with your kids. Shouldn’t our kids be our highest priority?!
But, what if we want to work? Some of us really do enjoy working. I cannot imagine not working. My kids are awesome—funny, responsible, and a joy to be around most of the time, but working brings me a different kind of fulfillment. Being creative and solving problems at work uses my gifts in a way that motherhood often neglects. I feel useful, needed, and successful. I want to work, even if that means our home life is a little more chaotic.
Choosing to work isn’t not choosing my children. Instead, it’s freeing my children from expectations only a work environment can meet within my soul.
Making choices and feeling guilty
As mamas, we can’t separate our work and families completely no matter how hard we try. We try to balance everyone’s needs and expectations (including our own), but we can’t do everything. Insert our daily dose of guilt and disappointment.
Trying to devote the “right” time to each part of our lives is like walking a tightrope in stilettos—impossible.
How much can I get done in the office?
What time do I need to be home?
Can I finish this at home?
Am I talking to the kids enough?
Is it possible to separate work and family when you’re the boss? (For real. Some days I take 3 kids and 2 dogs with me to the office.)
We are the masters of our guilt. There isn’t a single judgmental thought or comment we haven’t already heaped on ourselves. Extra guilt from outsiders—we don’t need it. What can help us overcome the guilt associated with how it feels to be a working mother?
Grace—first for us, and then for those around us.
Words really can be hurtful
Remember the nursery rhyme, “sticks and stone may break my bones, but words can never hurt me”? It’s a lie. Words are some of the most hurtful weapons.
A few years ago I overheard some ladies discussing working mamas. More specifically, they were lamenting the idea that women should do anything other than stay-at-home. Words like “irresponsible” and “motherhood as your highest calling” were tossed about. Obviously not meeting their standards, I continued to walk past.
Not specifically directed at me, their words still felt like an attack. Was I wrong for working? They thought so. Does it make a difference if I’m working with my husband? Not sure. Was it hurtful? Absolutely. Can I still recall the entire scene? Yep.
The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (Prov. 12:18)
Remember, our words have power.
How it feels to be a working mother
How it feels to be a working mother—exciting, challenging, tiring, hard, defeating, fun… just like being a stay-at-home mama.
That’s the thing that gets missed the most. No matter what you choose, there’s good and bad in both scenarios. We don’t run away to work to escape motherhood — (Not most days). Working is our way to be true to God’s design for us. Being a good mama has nothing to do with whether you stay-at-home, work outside the home, or some combination of the two.
There are things about staying-at-home I envy. I see your day trips, playdates, and volunteering. As my kids get older, I wonder if they’ll resent the time I spent at work or the days they joined me in the office. We all worry about the best decisions along the way.
My kids got a working mother, as well as some “bonus mamas” who each bring something special to their lives. Some are in charge of fun and games, others share similar interests, while others offer a place to crash with friends. Together, we create the community our children need.
You’re not alone in your doubts. I worry too, but I’m learning to trust God more. The only correct answer is the one He gives you. Your worth as a mama is not determined by your job title or time spent at home. Go and do as He directs. You’ve got this, and when you don’t—He does.
As working mothers, we’re just trying to love our families well as we pursue God’s purpose in our lives.
A version of this post originally appeared at kellybeckleyshank.com, published with permission.