Women & Work

Confessions from a Working Mom

I see you, mama. I see how you hustle to get your children clothed and fed in the early morning hour, sipping on a cup of coffee that you know you’ll have to re-warm in the microwave before long. I see you keeping one eye on the clock and the other on your inbox, buttoning little shirts and wiping tender faces, calculating the time it takes to do a school or daycare drop off and get to work on time, multi-tasking to the highest degree. I feel the relief that washes over you once your little ones (your joy, your heartache) are handed off to their caretakers; I sense the guilt that tries to whisper (names, labels) to your mind, accusing you of not being something…more. Better. Perfect. Everything. 

If your work requires you to seek out childcare for your children, be that part-time, full-time, or only on occasion, I would wager that you’ve also felt this. Maybe this was a scene from your house this morning. Maybe you’ve asked the same questions that I have, in the most holy places of a morning shower or a quiet car; questions like, Who will care for my children while I work? Am I doing the right thing here? How do I love and care for them as their mother, while also fulfilling my vocational duties? Lord, how do I walk this out in a way that pleases you? 

In terms of the practical solution for childcare, there is not a sanctioned “right answer” here (let’s just clear that up right now). Not only will your solution be distinct from mine, but it might be different according to your day-to-day needs. For instance, my school-aged pack of boys need care (see: adult supervision) during the summer months. Therefore, our family’s solution usually ends up being an adaptable mixture of sending our kiddos to day camps, asking trusted friends or family members to help, and paying a college-aged babysitter (it’s super fun to schedule, as you can probably imagine!) On the other hand, a good friend has a new baby that needs more intense care, so she has negotiated with her employer to work remotely 2 days a week –which means she will pay a nanny (and not a small amount, mind you, due to the demographic of her metro area) to come to her home for the other 3 ‘in-office’ days. Your situation might rely on consistency in the form of a local daycare, or perhaps your husband is able to be the primary caregiver for your little ones. None of these scenarios are perfect, or easy, and they each require some level of sacrifice and flexibility. 

But I doubt that is why you clicked on this article. We are not really looking for scheduling tips, are we? If you are anything like me, you are asking the question-behind-the-questions. We are collectively wondering how God sees us, how we should think about (and walk out) our everyday life, and if He is pleased with what He sees. Amid the daily juggle of family, work, and other responsibilities, we sense the whisper of the Holy Spirit inviting us to draw near, and so we ask. 

Our postmodern culture attempts to influence us to think about these things (work and vocation, childcare, work/family integrated life) in material terms: we are mere resources of energy, meant to produce like machines, and therefore the pragmatic solution is always best. But as Christians, we are called to live lives of meaning and purpose beyond ourselves, and so it is good to remember that God cares about this area of our lives, too. There are not “spiritual” things and “unspiritual” or “secular” things, because we live in the world that He created and ordered. If we are submitted to the lordship of Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit, and are learning to love God with everything we are, then we are already living in His kingdom as we go about our everyday life. God cares about the seemingly mundane, ultra-practical things in our lives, because on this very wheel He will work us like clay to conform us to the image of Christ. 

But I’ll confess that there is something dark within me at times that mimics Eve, bending her ear to the serpent’s lies, desiring to be like God (Gen. 3:5) and to have the omnipresent ability to be a full time (perfect) mother and a full time (accomplished) worker. As much as I want to be in two places at once, both with my children and engaging with my work, I am fixed in time and place. Therefore, the fact that I cannot do both must be reflective of God’s design of my human limitedness. And this is what the Lord has been pressing me with lately: the ongoing struggle to work toward a solution for childcare points to one obvious truth, and that is simply, I am not God. 

Yes, I was made to be a mother and a worker, both roles working in concert to co-create with the Creator, but it’s important to understand that God’s design has specifically ordained me to be in the position of the receiver. This is what I mean –as a mother, I receive and nurture life on behalf of my children, and as a worker, I receive and steward the call to a co-creative vocation as a vessel of the Holy Spirit. Neither of these situations put me in the position of what Aristotle and Aquinas called the
prime mover, that is, God as the First Cause. He must always be the initiator and I, mere creature that I am, must be the one who responds. It is by God’s creative design for family that I became a mother (and received that life into my womb); it is by God’s call to my life that I came to know Him (and received the gift of salvation); and it is by His direction that I was invited to a kingdom-oriented vocation (and received purpose-driven work). In all things, I am accepting the gift bestowed by my heavenly Father (James 1:17), and my responsibility is to trust and obey (as the old hymn rings.) 

Remember, our lives are much more than logistical problems to be solved. There is meaning to be found in the most ordinary of places. We Christian women, who are mothering and working and all the things, are living reflections of the temporal nature of our lives. Our circumstances are not static and our children’s needs are ever-changing, and yet it is by virtue of our limitations that we are prompted to remember Christ’s promise to us, that His “grace is sufficient” for us, and His “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). We are accountable to God for today, for how we walked in obedience and reliance on Him
on this day, and He has promised to empower us with His wonderful grace while transforming us in the process. As turn-of-the-twentieth-century evangelist, Oswald Chambers[1] wrote about the everyday life of the believer, “We are built for the valley, for the ordinary stuff we are in, and that is where we have to prove our mettle.” As I arrange for childcare, kiss little cheeks goodbye, turn to the work that I am assigned to for this season (and miss them every moment), I am acknowledging my total dependence on God to accomplish His will in all of us. 

 

[1] Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, (Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI 1935) October 1st entry.

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