A working mom; I never wanted to be one. I remember the question from elementary school, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" My answer was always "A Mom." I always wished, hoped, and prayed to be home with my babies. I do NOT desire to be a “professional.” I don’t long for employee meetings or client lunches. I don’t get excited at the thought of working for a boss or having co-workers to gab with. My desire is to rock my baby boy to sleep for his nap. I long to do my daughter’s hair each day for kindergarten. I want to get the opportunity to volunteer for the 4th grade field trip with my son. I crave to wake up and not have to get dressed in “business casual” clothes and leave the house before anyone is awake. The thought is sometimes crippling. Someone else is rocking my baby to sleep. Someone else is doing my daughter’s hair for school. Another mom is volunteering in the 4th grade class with my son.
My situation is not unique or special. I work because I have to in order to provide for my family. There are two full time working parents in our household to make things work. We don’t have extras and we live modestly. I dye my own hair and shop at Walmart. I drive a used Minivan. We have a house where all rooms (including the family room!) are used as bedrooms, but we are comfortable. We have a dog and a cat, and our vacations are really stay-cations. I save my PTO days for when my kids are sick. Our evenings are filled with activities and all the things I didn’t get to do during the day. The laundry, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, errand running – I do it all when I would rather just be relaxing and playing with my family.
Something so simple becomes one of the hardest times during the day: when it’s time to get lunch. On the days I run to grab a quick lunch, I feel honest sadness and jealousy when I see women, my age, out with their friends and kids. There are usually babies in the mix, and there they are: sitting, feeding their babies, visiting and spending time with one another and their children. Oh how I desire to switch places just one day with those women. To lunch with friends and our kids, and not eat lonely in my basement office. These encounters always lead me to think about my kids. What are they learning from me? What am I teaching them when I'm gone all the time?
First, I am teaching my kids each day that working isn't easy. They see me balance my work life with home life. They know I get up each morning before everyone else, and leave our crowded but wonderful house for a job that can be difficult. I learned this from my own mother as I watched her do the same thing after the death of my father at a young age. She provided for four kids all on her own. She pioneered a way for me to see that it’s possible even while grieving the loss of her husband. Not always easy, but absolutely possible. I want to help them understand that there will be challenging parts of life, but with support and determination, those harder times don't seems so bad.
Second, I teach my kids that I am blessed to provide for them. I know that someday, they will understand that my sacrifice of time with them was to provide a loving, secure life for them. I'm blessed to actually be a mother and recognize that isn't an opportunity provided to every woman. I am blessed with knowledge and experience that give me a good job. I am lucky and grateful for loving friends and family that help each and every day with the babysitting and carpooling that I cannot always get to. But more than anything, I am blessed for a partner that works hard right alongside with me. He is there, getting kids ready for school, making eggs for the kids, and gathering backpacks for the morning routine, all before he goes to his job too. We could never be successful without the support of all the people in our “village.” My kids see us working together, alternating shifts and can witness acts of service all around them. I teach them that they are my gift, and even though it can be hard to be a working mom, they are worth it. My kids know they are loved and that is priceless knowledge.
And lastly the other thing working has taught me and my kids, is that our time home has to matter. It has to count. I have limited time with all three of my kids: Collin who is 10, Eden who is 6, and Beck who is one. I don't want my kids to miss out just because their mom works. The two older kids get one after school activity. So, our car rides to tumbling become discussions about school. Our waiting at soccer practice becomes time for playground silliness. Whey they are awake, they have all of me and all of my time. We cook together, we clean together, we serve together and all the mundane responsibilities at home become another way to spend time together. I have learned to say "No" to the things that take away from my time at home; which has become empowering!
I’ve had people tell me that if I just cut back in this area or another, I could be home. They say it’s all about choices. Unfortunately these people don’t know my particular situation. And they don’t know me. With a blended family like ours, I have to work. There is no way around it. So I make the most of it. I FaceTime my baby in the mornings and get updates from his caretaker. Another friend sends me photos of my daughter on her way to kindergarten. And with this, I am able to remind myself every single day that I am blessed. Feeling grateful for a job and a family help wipe away the tears when sometimes it just gets hard to bear. This attitude of gratitude is what I am teaching my kids.