On Joy (Again)

5.18.2016

If you know me in real life or have followed my blog over the past six months, you know that the transition to being a full-time working mom outside the home has not been easy for me. I know for some people it’s easier than for others, and I'm happy for them. For me, it’s been a struggle, and that’s putting it lightly.


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

33 comments:

  1. I like this post, it's an interesting spin on your situation. I wanted to tell you that sending a toddler to daycare while working is so so so so so much different than sending a baby. My daughter loves going and knowing that she's having such a good time makes if much easier to go to work. Plus, she can stay up much later, so there is time for play after we get home, rather than supper-bath-bed rush and feeling like I never see her. You might still always want to stay home with her and that's ok but it does get better.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for sharing that! I do hope it continues to get easier. It already is easier than it was when we first started going. It helps that we like the daycare and know she likes it too (she smiles so big when she sees her teacher in the mornings!).

      Delete
  2. I can't connect on a mom-level, but I definitely know the feeling of seeking joy in your day-to-day life and finding none. I constantly ask myself what I should be doing (career-wise) and what would make me happy, but I just can't find the answer. I turn to God for A LOT of emotional or health or "please will you..." problems, but I don't think I've ever sent up a prayer regarding career choices. I'm so glad you felt compelled to write this post- I hope you're finding peace and joy in your situation!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Keep writing about that working mom struggle, because, selfishly, I need it so badly <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm finding it hard to find people online who are writing about this, and I need it too. So thanks for commenting and reading, friend :)

      Delete
    2. Crazy coincidence but I just wrote about this today too - kinda along the same spectrum.

      As an aside I really do think the US maternity laws are essentially barbaric. I agree with the author above; it gets way easier to leave older babies, like toddlers who thrive with interaction. I think mothers should be supported by the government for at least a year, even longer!

      Delete
  4. I think our culture makes idols out of children, and it's so hard to resist that, because kids have become in our minds the model of innocence and hope and joy and... We as a culture are *obsessed* with children. So I guess what I'm saying is: you're not the only one! And the fact that you woke up to it is impressive, because most of us don't. I felt like $%#@ every time I left Sylvie--and then I realized that she doesn't need to make an idol out of me either, and having others care for her in her life is a good thing. Hang in there. It truly does get easier when they're older and 'social'. But our cultural norms are powerful and it is VERY hard to resist this. <3

    ReplyDelete
  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I really appreciate what you write about the working mom life. I'm a working mom, too, and I agree that it's hard to find supportive and encouraging blogs written from our perspective. Also like you, I never expected to be a stay-at-home mom, but now I wish I could be. I feel like I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to find a work-from-home job or doing some kind of sorcery on our finances that would allow me to be at home with my kids. Anyway, thank you for this reminder to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus instead of my circumstances. I needed it today.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Yes yes yes yes yes. Thank you so much for being open and honest about this. I can't even go to Target on my lunch break without feeling the jealousy towards the mommas with their babies and missing my sweet baby boy so much. Such a great reminder of where we should find our joy. I'm sure I haven't been pointing people towards Jesus with all my grumbling and complaining...

    ReplyDelete
  8. I can't relate to the mom side of this, but I can relate to finding my joy in someone other than Jesus. It's so easy to make idols out of the things and people and relationships that surround us. Finding our joy in Christ is most important for sure. Thanks for this reminder.

    And by the by, I'm so happy you've come to this realization! I know it can't have been an easy blog post to write, but I'm sure you are connecting with so many working moms.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Amanda, thank you for this post!!! I really love that you bring up Luke 14 and prioritizing God and seeking His will above all else, that' such an important and necessary perspective to have! I'm also really excited that you shared with us the struggle of being a working mom, because it seems like this isn't discussed very much in the blogging world, and sometimes it can seem like there is this belief that moms who work are "less than" moms who stay at home, even though that is absolutely untrue! I think that stay at home and working moms have so much wisdom and awesomeness to share with each other from their different experiences, and as a stay-at-home mom, I find a lot of value in hearing about things from your perspective. Thank you for sharing it with us! :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. This is such a good perspective!! I'm sure I'll be at home with the baby at first, but I've always seen myself working still. Especially when they get older and go to school, I don't know what I would do all day without working. I ENJOY work haha. I obviously don't know how hard this will be or if my business will still be fruitful so I can do at from home. I already get nervous on how the transition will go and how I will be able to adjust to a baby and running a business! If anything, you working is showing her how to be independent and hardworking, herself! And it's so crazy the mom-guilt people put on each other for not being this kind of mom or whatever. I think whatever works for you and your family is what is right for YOU. As long as she knows she is loved like crazy, that is what matters!!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I had the exact same revelation with the joy aspect while I was gone this week for work. My son brings so much joy to me and I missed him SO much! Thanks for sharing this.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I have debated on commenting, because posts like this are the ones that make me feel like I can't relate to the "mom world". I had no problem leaving my first at 10 weeks. I actually called and asked to go back 2 weeks earlier than I had planned. At the time I worked 4 ten hour days. I felt awful when I drove away that first morning feeling elated that someone who actually knew what they were doing was going to be watching my son. Yes, I nursed him until 10 months and loved him dearly. I simply didn't enjoy the baby stage. Now that same son is 12 and preparing to walk out of an elementary building for the last time as a student. I am choked up just thinking about it. My youngest, 4, is off to the zoo today for a field trip. I feel sick to my stomach that I couldn't work it out with my work schedule.
    Keep your head up and know that there are all kinds of surprises in parenting. Some better than I could ever imagine and some so hard I physically ache. I also realized that my happiness with life radiates in my boys. When I am down we all feel it. When I feel joy they know it. I also value every minute we have together, well maybe not all the boy humor.
    Love reading your blog.
    Kara

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for sharing! One of my best friends is back at work after maternity leave and is really excited about it, so I know there are many people who didn't have as big of a struggle leaving their babies. I do enjoy my job and feel like there are many positives to childcare. She's just in such a cute stage that I miss being with her more! I agree that when I'm down, she will know it so that's a good reminder to be happy and treasure our time together.

      Delete
  13. I'm so glad that your working towards a "new" way of finding joy! Reading this post was a reminder to me of what I need to do to find joy as well. I'm over a year into this motherhood experience and I am still struggling to adjust at times. Even though I'm no longer working (I did for 3.5 months post baby), I still find myself having a hard time. In more aspects than just motherhood though. I've been really trying to focus on prayers, reading a daily scripture, and having faith that God knows what I'm going through and he'll get me through it. By the way, as a SAHM I don't understand how Mom's just want a "vacation" from their kids all time. I rarely ask for a babysitter and when I do, I miss her and can't wait to get home to her. Don't get me wrong, a short little break is always a good thing too! But I don't ever want to wish my time away with her. Some days may be tough but I always remind myself to be thankful! Sorry rambling now... great post Amanda! I hope finding joy and focusing on your relationship with God will begin to help you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have been trying to focus on prayers and scripture too. They always speak such truth into my life. Glad you are too! Thanks for sharing :)

      Delete
  14. I relate more than you'll ever know. Being a working mom is so, so hard. And honestly, I thought it'd get easier - but it hasn't (and my son is 18 months old.) I'll probably never be able to stay at home - that's just my reality. Am I envious of other moms who can just quit their jobs and stay home? Or even work part time? Absolutely. And I hate that. But we do have to find joy. We have to find that contentment (it's not settling - it's contentment.) You're doing great - you really are. All of us working parents are.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Oh wow! This post gives me so much to think about. I relate to you on every level of the whole "working mom" issue...thank you so much for sharing this perspective.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I think it is very easy for any mom to put their kids first--before themselves, their husbands, their faith. It's hard because the love is so big! No matter your situation, trying to maintain some sort of balance...is an ongoing struggle that I think everyone is battling in one way or another.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Well, C.S. Lewis really did say everything best, so that's one cliche that will never be annoying. I'm so happy for you that you've been able to come to realization! What helps me with joy and contentment is knowing that God made me ME, you know, and I'd rather be ME, with my own little path in life than absolutely anyone else, no matter if their lot is easier or harder than mine is. I sure wouldn't want to be anyone else at all! It's awesome that you love your precious little girl so much--but when a life situation like being a working mom threatens to steal your God-given joy--that's when you have to 'redirect' your thoughts and say "No way, I will have joy because my Savior loves me like crazy and there is NOTHING that can get in the way of that love."
    Life can be hard, but we have a bright, bright future.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Hi! You blog looks so great! I really like it! I also really enjoyed your post. I have been struggling with joy and I love your honesty here. I have spent a lot of mornings praying for my own attitude in my circumstances and I can tell that Jesus is using all this to teach me. :)

    ReplyDelete
  19. So yeah, I can relate. Exactly. In every way. My daughter started daycare at 15 months and she's 20 months now, and though I can admit that it really has gotten a lot easier in the day to day stuff, I'm still a total hoarder with her when we're not at work/daycare. Even when I spare a few of her hours to you know, let her grandparents enjoy her, I'm just stressing and counting down the minutes until she gets home again. And as much as I love her, I'm starting to realize that's maybe not the healthiest thing for me. Because being in my high-stress job all day and then immediately switching gears to care of my highly spirited child for the rest of my time leaves exactly zero time for myself, for my spouse, and especially for God. So I'm really thankful you wrote this post. It definitely is making me re-think my attitude as well. :)

    ReplyDelete
  20. Can I just say that I love C.S. Lewis? Thank you for your thoughts and I appreciate your honesty too (I often - okay, sometimes - have a profound thought, throw it on the blog, and feel like a hypocrite because I may have had that thought but I'm still struggling with implementing it in my own life for real...)

    ReplyDelete
  21. I'm glad you can be honest and share your feelings.

    I'm not a Mom (I feel like I say that on so many of your posts, ha!) but I think a lot of people idolize family, myself included. It's a real struggle for me. In fact, since high school I have had horrific nightmares of people dying, especially my brother since he is in the military. When Carol died those dreams intensified and I finally decided I had to figure out what the heck was going on when I started dreaming my nephew died. I know ... I sound like I need intense therapy. One day I was driving and praying and I was literally imaging myself talking to a counselor and was having a conversation in my head and I my therapist self asked the question to my normal self, "Why does your brother always die in your dreams?" and then I answered back, "because I elevate him..." and then the Holy Spirit stopped me right there and whispered to my heart "elevate. You said it. Your brother and your family are an idol." And then the conversation was forever over in my head. I literally felt sick at that the sin in my heart but was glad God showed me. I had to do some hard core praying and ask God to forgive me and to change me. It's hard!

    I imagine that would be much more difficult with kids rather than with siblings. I still will pray you get more time with R and hopefully that can change over time. However, I'm really glad God is using this season to teach you. Really that is a gift that He is teaching you this because if R isn't an idol in your life than you can point her better to Jesus.

    I will be praying for you!

    ReplyDelete
  22. I really appreciate you sharing your working mom life here! I'm not a blogger, but you're right, it can be hard to find blogs by moms who work outside the home. That's why I really appreciate yours! I'm 35 weeks pregnant now and am returning to work eight weeks after my son is born. There's no possibility of me staying home, so I'm trying to find a place of acceptance and joy in my situation as well. Thank you for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Katie! Thanks so much for reading and for the comment :) I do think it's important for us to find people who really do understand what we are going through. I do pray you find acceptance and joy in your work. It's been hard for me, but it is getting easier, and I think realizing that my daughter shouldn't be the only place I find joy has really helped my attitude and made my marriage stronger too. P.S. Congratulations! I am excited for you. Being a mom is so wonderful.

      Delete
  23. I can relate a lot to your feelings. Before I had Caleb, I also never pictured myself wanting to stay home... then I had him and I suddenly wished I could stay home. We are in no position for me to stop working so I've learned to accept it for what it is. I've also had a hard time finding a lot of other working mom bloggers so I'm always excited when I do.

    You have a great perspective. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree! I am always really excited when I find another working mom blogger. It's nice to read about someone else's perspective and experience.

      Delete
  24. i'm glad you are writing and sharing these things because i do feel like the internet/blogland needs your perspective, though i can't imagine it is anywhere close to easy going through it. i of course have no idea what it's like to be a mother, stay at home or working. i feel like it could be one of those grass is always greener on the other side, no matter what side you are on. but again, i have no idea and i don't mean to belittle your experience! or SAHMs either. I honestly think it would be insanely hard to be away from my child, and want to soak up as much time as possible. I don't even have kids and i get stabby thinking about people trying to take my non existent children away from me lol.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for the comment! I will respond via email and also occasionally in the post thread if you are asking a question that other readers might be interested in.

・ DESIGNED BY ECLAIR DESIGNS