for the working moms...
I was never one of those little girls that grew up dreaming about being a mom. It’s not that I didn’t want to be a mom, I just grew up watching women work AND be a mom. Being a mom was not their entire identity. I went to college at a small school, where so many of my classmates and dorm mates could not wait to be a mom and have a family of their own. This was an entirely new concept to me because of how I was raised. Many of them went on to get married and then become a stay at home mom. I wondered if I had missed something since I never desired to do this, and then felt guilty that I didn’t want to spend that much time at home. I knew that I loved my kids way too much to ever homeschool or be home with them full time. Stay at home moms, you are a whole different level of super human. I have no idea how you do it. That might be the most intimidating job on the planet. I have so much to learn from you.
It took me quite some time to recognize the gift that God had given me to be career driven and a mom. The identity can be shared. So, this one's for you, working moms. We journey together, balancing the emotional demands of working, domestic obligations, balancing relationships, scheduling extra curriculars, while attending conferences and cooking dinner. Our schedules are jam packed, from 6am until 10pm. We spend mornings helping pack lunches, including our own, and rely on Instacart or delivery services just to keep things going. We make sure the daycare bag has plenty of diapers, milk and change of clothes. We are herding cats to get our boys into bed after an evening wrestling match. We are making time to exercise or drinking extra coffee because please, someone just give us more coffee. Some weeks, we do this with grace. Other weeks, we are living for the weekend without a schedule.
As a mom of four kids, I have to learn the idea of “balance” the hard way. A lot. Maybe you’re like me and tend to over do it. PTA volunteer? Sure thing. Guest speaker to talk about our career at career day? You bet! This school year, however, I am learning that I need to scale back. It has only taken many years to figure this out. But, I was not being my best self. In order to actually pour out of my cup and not be exhausted, some things are going to have to give. I am not able to use the gifts God has given me, to serve my main mission field: my family. Some days, they get my leftovers. They certainly do not expect perfection and I am so grateful for their grace. But, the shift has to start with me. I have to recognize that not all three categories can always get my attention: work, family and activities. What am I giving up and who am I choosing to serve? Just because the school garden needs a volunteer, does not mean we need to drag our kids to water and weed the garden. Examining the “why” when we are making commitments keeps things in perspective. Are we doing this so we can join in and help teach our children a skill? Or, are we doing this out of obligation? We do much better if we can all give ourselves a bit of grace, allowing the words “no, I cannot sign up for this” to come out of our mouth.
I am so humbled knowing Jesus is right there in the car pickup line (anyone else wonder how some mom’s get their kids to look so perfect before school everyday when mine hopefully have brushed their hair once in the last four days?), on our working lunch and the hour before the deadline. He is there experiencing the mundane with us and recognizes our every effort to be our best selves to those near to us. We do not have to be extravagant in our service just to fulfill societal pressure. We are called to serve our family well, and use our gifts how we are able.
I want my daughters to watch their mom be a mom who works, knowing that is my gift. I want them to see that it is ok to stay home or to work, or do both. Modeling how I can use my gifts to do kingdom work is not an easy task. I want them to see that balance is such a hard goal, and in some seasons, unattainable. I don’t want their decisions and thoughts to be driven by guilt or pressure, but simply want them to know their gifts and see how they can contribute to their family. I want them to find joy in the mundane and go through their day seeing how their gifts fit into the bigger picture. I want their cups to be full so they can love everyone around them, whether it be at a PTA meeting or in a meeting with challenging co-workers.
be present where our feet are...
So, let’s give ourselves a break this week, working moms. Let’s appreciate the gifts that we do have and see how they fit into the bigger picture. Let’s not beat ourselves up if we have to say no to an extra commitment that takes away from work or family time. This season is short. We want to be present where our feet are and model gifts for kingdom work. We can certainly be joyful in a full and busy season of life, knowing the journey of balance is ongoing but grace is necessary.
Steffanie and her husband are raising their four daughters in Portland, Oregon. When they aren't down to business, the Altenbern family loves to spend time appreciating the PNW - camping and wakeboarding being some of their favorite activities! Steffanie is a lover of takeout and tacos, and relaxes with hot yoga.
Photos by Cate Autumn Photography. Guest writer headshot provided by Steffanie Altenbern.