I think part of the reason this has been so difficult for me is because I didn’t expect it to be difficult. I never imagined myself as a stay-at-home mom. I wasn’t one of those girls who dreamed of having tons of babies, quitting my job, and staying at home. So when it came time to go back to work after having R, I was surprised to discover that I didn’t want to work. I just wanted to stay at home with her.
The fact of the matter is, I have a really hard time spending so much time away from my daughter, and I’ve been wearing that fact as a rather large chip on my shoulder for the past six months. (Maybe that’s why my right shoulder is always so tight!) Blogging, which has always been good to me, has been a lonely place for me lately. So many bloggers are stay-at-home moms, and not only can I not relate to that, but reading about it makes me jealous and bitter.
I see posts about moms wanting nothing else but to go to the store alone and be able to walk around all by themselves. A vacation, they jokingly call it. And while that mind-set is completely understandable and valid in that situation, as a working mom I spend entirely too much time away from my baby, and all I want is to spend any and all free time I have with her.
I look back on the things I’ve written about finding joy and letting go of my lot in life, and while those sound really great, the fact is I don’t feel like I’m much better off in these areas than I was when I wrote them. This is discouraging because it makes me feel like I’m not making much progress when it comes to being content.
I was out for a run recently, and I started thinking about my joy and where it comes from. (What? You don’t have existential thoughts while exercising?)
As a Christian, I know that I need to find true joy in Jesus. In the Bible, Jesus talks about taking up our cross to follow him. He goes even further when he says this in Luke 14:26, “If any man comes to me and does not hate his father and mother and wife and children, such a person cannot be my disciple.”
This sounds a bit shocking if you really think about it. Why would God ask this of us? Does God really want us to hate our family?
The point here is not that God doesn’t want us to love our family. The point is that he wants us to love him first, and if something or someone is in the way of that, we need to reprioritize. He uses such vivid language to show us how serious this is, because our relationship with God affects everything else in our lives.
It was then that I had a startling revelation: my daughter has become an idol in my life and the place where I am finding joy. I am so full of happiness when I’m around her and so sad when I’m not, and it’s affecting me in so many other areas of my life, most importantly in my relationship with God but also in my relationships with my husband and my friends.
My daughter is a precious gift and a very important part of my life, but she is not the most important, nor should she be.
I think it’s good that I’ve realized this because now I can begin to take steps to change my attitude. That first involves prayer, and it involves consciously redirecting my thoughts when they start to take a negative turn. It involves truly rejoicing with friends who get to quit their jobs to stay at home; it means supporting those friends who work and are away from their babies; it means being thankful; it means finding joy in Jesus first and everything else a far second.
Maybe I will always be a working mom. Maybe I’ll quit my job in a year or three. I don’t know what will happen, but I need to accept where I am in this stage. I’m not saying I should settle, but I’m saying that for now this is what I am doing and what my life looks like, and I need to not only be okay with that but to find joy in it.
Just because I can’t be with my daughter all day doesn’t mean I can’t be joyful and fulfilled in my work. It doesn't mean I love my baby any less than any other mom just because I work outside the home. (I know that's obvious, but sometimes I still hear the voices telling me this!) She is doing great at daycare, and we have found a pretty good (albeit tiring) routine. And anyway, I shouldn’t be naïve enough to think that being with her all day would solve my problems; if anything, that would likely exacerbate the issue.
Surely there is someone reading this who can relate, perhaps not specifically to my exact situation, but because you have placed something or someone as an idol in your life that is affecting your joy and your relationship with God and others. My encouragement to you (and to myself!) is to not try to find joy in circumstances or your job or your children or your family but to search for joy in Jesus first.
It’s such a Christian cliché to end with a CS Lewis quote, but he really did say it best:
Look for yourself and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.
-CS Lewis, Mere Christianity
-CS Lewis, Mere Christianity