I’m joining the Patheos posts on the Mommy wars, including Rebecca Cusey’s Beyond the Mommy-Wars Bumper Sticker,
“Can you cut your trip short and come home?” came the woeful voice over the phone on the first day of my 3rd business trip this spring.
“No, I can’t,” I said, “I’m sorry.”
“But I NEED you,” said the child. “You’ve got to come home and discipline (sibling’s name)!”
Enter a gazillion opportunities to feel guilty with even more judgments.
Tina Fey writes in Bossy Pants,
“The topic of working moms is a tap dance recital in a minefield.”
So join me as I kick-ball-change with trepidation. . .
First, I want to acknowledge that all mothers work (with the moms in The Nanny Diaries a rare exception)—carrying, bearing and raising kids takes WORK, and most of us are completely exhausted by it.
But I’ve also chosen to work for pay outside the home throughout my entire 16-years of mothering. Here’s why:
1. The money. Let’s just admit that those who can entertain the choice to stay home have the means to stay home. There are plenty of working parents who wish they could stay home. Many, if not most must labor to financially support their families.
With our first child, health issues meant my dream of children and my husband’s dream of graduate school collided. So we did both. He was willing to take out mega loans if I wanted to stay home with baby. I wasn’t. I worked 30 hours/week for family healthcare and to pay our living expenses.
After our 2nd child was born, my husband graduated and got a job with benefits. Since then, he’s earned the greater proportion of our family income, but my income has still been more than helpful. It enabled us to buy a ramshackle home in our community, send our daughter to preschool, and go out on cheap dates. It allows us to give more generously.
2. Because I want to. I enjoy working outside the home and ministering to those outside my family and neighborhood. . . a lot. I like working with men—which comes naturally in ministry but not as naturally in the mom world. Work gives me chances to grow and learn and bring back interesting stories to the family.
Over the years, work’s been a place to experience my strengths—especially as my weaknesses have been so exposed in motherhood. (Despite begging God for the fruits of the Holy Spirit almost every morning, especially patience and self-control, I’m still waiting on those darn fruits.)
During the young kid years, when I often felt lonely and misunderstood in the mom world, my work colleagues also became my safest community—they let me be a struggling mother AND a gifted and valued fellow minister, fully dimensional in a way I often didn’t feel permission elsewhere.
3. Because I think God has called me. I was tempted to put this reason first so I’d look more spiritual as if I’ve just been obeying God all along, but I think God gives us choices and if I had wanted to stay home, I’m sure Jesus would have blessed that as well.
Over the years, I’ve sensed God’s invitation to work outside the home. I bring something unique to the places God invites me to go, and to the people He graces me to meet. Through both paid work and parenting, I’ve felt something of Frederick Buechner’s famous quote:
“Your calling in life is where your greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need.”
I’m hugely passionate about my kids but my kids aren’t my only passion. Work and writing are ways I live out my other passions and try to meet some of the world’s needs.
As my child tried to convince me to fly home, or if that didn’t work, feel guilty about it, I resisted both the shortened and the guilt trip. I said, “You have a perfectly capable parent at home who can help you with everything you want from me.”
The next day, I checked in and sure enough, my husband not only capably dealt with the kid chaos, but did a better job than I would have.
Now that was great work!
How have you balanced parenting with a calling inside or outside the home?
Why have you made the decisions you have made? What’s good about your decisions? What’s challenging?
Why is this topic one that feels like tap-dancing on a minefield?
This post first appeared in What She Said