Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Working Mother

I’m a working mother. In my opinion, the words “mother” and “worker” are synonyms.

I don’t claim to understand the inner workings or mystery that is God. I believe the vastness of His love is too much for our mortal, fallen minds to grasp.

I am sure our worth is not found in a paycheck and that every life holds the same amount of value. That amount does not begin with a dollar sign.

This is not the mind set of our culture. Questions such as “what do you do?” and “what are you?” are quick to form on the lips of strangers and long lost friends. The answers sought are often job titles, and expected as definitions of a person instead of how a paycheck is earned.

When a mother is asked what she “does” there is often a qualifier placed in front of her answer, either by herself or the person she’s speaking to. “Oh, I’m JUST a mom,” or, “so you JUST stay home?”

Don’t cut yourself short, moms! There’s no “just” about this gig! Let’s all get together on one thing; in the language of motherhood, “just” should indeed be treated as a four letter word. Let’s not say it about ourselves or let others use it in reference to our vocation.

There are many calls to the same vocation. This is especially true of motherhood. Some are called to be the family breadwinner; some are called to be home fulltime, some half time. There are mothers who are called to bring new life into the world yearly during their season of fertility in the form of a new baby while others carry the cross of infertility. Some mothers are called to mother children of the world who have no mother.

As mother, the one thing we all have in common is that we are all called to live our lives breathing life into the world, be that into little souls trusted in our care or in the many other ways God calls that breath from us into the world. It is fruitful. It is good, and it is different in each mother.

I am currently called to be a work at home mother. Working from home is stressful, but worth it for our family. I started working from home for a family centered company when our second daughter was two months old. The opportunity was a God send for me.

Joseph and I had just had two daughters in one year and realized we needed an additional source of income. Over these two years my commitment has varied. My role and time commitment has nicely settled into about 15 hours a week.

My freelancing career has grown greatly over these past two years. On average, I am working on freelance assignments about10 hours a week, putting my total weekly working hours at about 25.

The addition of these freelance hours has helped me become a better worker and a better mother. When I found myself too overwhelmed with these commitments I took a step back and really discerned how I work.

I used to “work” all throughout the day. Making a phone call here and there, checking my e-mail every hour and answering e-mails as they came in. At the end of the day I had really only “worked” maybe an hour and a half. Yet, I felt like I was working all day every day and that the TV was babysitting my children.

My husband and I decided this was not working for our family and after much discernment, we decided that although I am still called to be a work at home mother, how I went about it needed to change. With my freelancing growing we decided it was time to make room in our lives for me to have some solid and defined working time.

For the past few months we have set aside larger blocks of time for me to work. Instead of always feeling like my mind was on work while my kids fit between those stresses, we’ve shifted our focus. I work less days but for longer periods of time. This has created less time stressing about work and more time actually working. It’s been a wonderful change for me mentally and it’s been great for my projects and my motherhood. I’ve been able to take on more freelance work and feel the publications I work on for my job have become better as a result.

The last trimester of this pregnancy has been one of great discernment for this work at home mother. I have a masters degree and the student loans that often accompany such a degree. In the past month many have asked me when I am going to “use” my degree.

My favorite question is, “when are you going to stop wasting your degree and go back to work?”

The question boils my blood. I do work. I am a mother, and a working mother at that. Just because I don’t leave my house everyday does not mean I’m not working, that I’m wasting my education or that I am financially lazy.

A few doors were recently opened to me and there was the possibility of me going back to work, full or part time, outside of the home.

During the daytime hours I was able to talk myself into this. I thought of all the debt we could pay off, vacations we could take and stress that would be taken off our plate.

But, the night. The night was another story.

For a few days I was unable to sleep and didn’t know why. Then I started having panic attacks. As perfect as the plan sounded, I am not called to it. I am called to be doing what I’m doing. I am home with my kids AND I work. The way our family pieces that all together is unconventional, but it works for us.

I feel so blessed to be home with my girls, doing a job I really like, working with people who share the same values as we do and building my writing career right along side my family. We are willing to sacrifice to live in the way we feel called. Just as mothers who work full time outside of the home are willing to sacrifice things to fill the role they are called to as a mother. Same vocation: different and equal call.

Like many other things in life, motherhood seldom goes exactly as expected. I learned this lesson in my first days as a mother when I was unable to breastfeed. I was heartbroken. I had convinced myself that to be a good mother one MUST breastfeed. God did not create that opportunity for me. Instead, His plan was much greater. His plan was Irish twins for us. This heartbreak turned into the blessing we call Anna Clare.

As I write this, I am very pregnant. My mother has come for a few days to help take care of the girls and clean my house so I may rest and get ahead on my projects and job to prepare for the birth of our third daughter. On this very day we are both answering the call to motherhood. My mother on her hands and knees scrubbing floors for her daughter and I in a chair, resting so that the daughter in my womb may grow strong and ready to enter the world. Very different kinds of work, but work none the less.

Truth is, there is as many definitions of a good mother as there are mothers. We need not compare our situations and gifts to one another. Motherhood is not a competition. There need not be winners and losers. As mothers we love children, and therefore want all mothers to be winners.

We’re all working mothers. We are exactly the mothers our children need and we fulfill this call in many different ways.

Motherhood, in all its many forms is a high call and a lot of WORK. No ifs, ands, buts or “justs” about it!


syodes said...

"We are exactly the mothers our children need" . . . You hit that one on the head as that is my main concern as a mother is that I'm there for my children and their needs (which is the highest of standards to meet)! In the same breath we as parents put our children's needs before our own. You have nothing to be ashamed of as you do have the ability to go outside the home and work, put your kids in daycare and see them around your work schedule. How sad would that option be when you are one of the elite & selfless group of mothers out there that can handle being a productive "stay at home mom". Instead you are DOING IT ALL . . . you balance & focus on your children, home, relationship and work 24/7 . . . that is to be looked up to, not down upon!

Second Chances said...

Love this Holly! Boy, if I had a nickle for every time we discerned me returning to work. But we get physically sick everytime we get close, and we've never really had a "golden" opportunity anyway, so we know we're not called to working outside of the house right now. Financially, it's a bit torturous. I wish I could work from home but I haven't had that opportunity. You are so blessed to have that! But most of all you are blessed to have your beautiful girls, an amazing supportive hubby, and knowing the Lord. You are truly blessed!

Sarah Denley said...

Loved this post, Holly. I realized today that I don't think I've ever commented. Or maybe commented once? I love your blog and your writing.

I'm curious as to what kind of work you do from home- I'm guessing something with writing. I'm a pretty nosy blog reader and if that's too personal of a question I understand!

Debi said...

Beautifully put!! You have a gift indeed...I look forward to reading your books someday!! Blessings!

Sew said...

I really wish there was something I could do to work at home. But obviously you see I can't write to save my life...:) Punctuation-what's that? :)

The only reason I wish I "loved" something or had something to do outside of my job as a mom is because I feel I need an outlet. I think that will come in time. I'm discerning somethings and hopefully God will put it into play if it unravels. I'm just gonna sit back and not get to crazy about it...

But whatever the reason, I"m not gonna push it because I think I'm still getting used to focusing on someone else 24-7. :)

This is a great post. I sometimes feel slighted (this is where I should insert humility and know I work my booty off) when a said person in my family talks about how busy they are or they are at work and can not talk etc....hahahaha It's okay...I work too it just doesn't stop at 5pm. :) hahahaha

I really love my job and it's so much more fulfilling FOR ME then sitting at an office full time.

But you are so right, whatever a woman chooses for her family is their choice. I don't really care what anyone does. :)

Man, I really wish I could come over for coffee! ;)

Sew said...

this is a cute quote...I couldn't just copy the quote so I gave you the link. ;)

Joy Beyond the Cross said...

Great post! I agree, you have a gift for writing and your perspectives are beautiful and very insightful. God Bless you and your beautiful family!

Renie said...

there are people in my past that felt I never worked while I stayed at home with my kids, also. I would do it all over again to be able to stay home with my kids. Later on, when the kids were older, I hated going to work, but you're right, bills needed to get paid. You have a Masters Degree, Holly, no one can ever take that away from you. Enjoy this time at home with your kids because they will be grown before you know it. You can always go back to work when they are grown. For those people who don't seem to think being a mom is work, all us Moms out there know better, don't we??? I've known you for so long, there's no doubt you're having a terrific time being a mom! Love you and miss you! I so want to meet your little ladies some day!

Abby said...

Great post, Holly. I can relate to so much, especially qualifying my work with "just" and trying to fit in calls and e-mails all throughout the day. That stresses me out, too, and I now try to save my writing work for when I have blocks of uninterrupted time. It's not easy, that's for sure. But I've never had another gig where the job satisfaction was so high. :)