Fragile. Handle with Care.

5.10.2018


In five short weeks, my baby boy will turn 1 year old. Just a few months after that, R will turn 3. It’s truly amazing to me to look back and think about how I’ve been a full-time working mom outside the home for almost 3 years.

I remember like it happened just yesterday sobbing all the way to work after leaving R at daycare for the first time. I remember coming home at the end of the day and nursing her in the rocker. We both fell asleep at 6:00, and then some time later Jordan came and put R in her crib and quietly pulled me out of the nursery. I collapsed on the floor in tears and wailed, “I can’t live like this.” I know that sounds dramatic, but Jordan will tell you that’s exactly what happened. I felt defeated and tired and emotionally drained, and I couldn’t imagine going on for even one more day.

People said it would get easier, but even three years later I can’t decide whether or not I think that’s true. It’s certainly gotten more efficient. I can get myself and both kids changed, fed, and out the door by 8:00 almost every single day, barring a last-minute poop explosion. I almost expect a prize just for showing up to work on time(ish) every day.

It’s easier to recognize the voices that tell me how much I’m missing or how little time I get with them, but it’s not always easier to ignore them.

It’s never easy to leave them in the mornings. But yes, I suppose it’s easier than it used to be, which I say is because I’ve had to build a heart of stone, bracing myself against the tears and the hugs and matter-of-factly putting them down and saying goodbye and walking away. But I often stand at the door like a creeper and watch as long as I can get away with it.

Over the past 3 years I’ve learned that people are so sensitive about the topic of working and staying at home. I knew that was the case, but man it is really the case. I write on this topic to share my experiences and hopefully encourage other working moms, but I also hope to shed some light into the struggles and emotions of working moms for those who aren’t. 

The more we all share about our unique situations, I hope the more sensitive we can be to other moms and stop judging and arguing and just support and encourage.

But it’s obviously not as easy as that. I think it would go a long way, however, to try and adjust our phrasing. All moms work, and the phrase “working mom” really is quite problematic when applied to only a specific group of moms. In a similar sense, the phrase “full-time mom” is problematic, implying that those who don’t stay at home aren’t full-time moms. (I wrote more about that here.

One small way I’ve tried to be more inclusive in my phrasing is when I meet someone, instead of asking if they work, I ask, “Do you work outside the home?” (I do realize there are moms who work at home, but I think overall the phrasing of this question diffuses a lot of defensiveness around the topic.)

The other issue, I think, is that we can all be guilty of assigning intent to something someone said that the other person probably didn’t even mean. It’s those darn voices again.

For example, when you say: “I don’t regret quitting my job to stay at home with my babies,” this is what I hear: “You are going to regret not quitting your job to stay home with your babies."

When you say: “They are only little once. It goes by so fast,” I hear: “You are gone so much and missing all of it. How sad for you."

When you say: “Quitting my job is the best choice for our family,” I hear: “Because you didn’t quit your job, you are choosing yourself over your family."

When you say: "I've made a lot of sacrifices to stay at home with my kids," I hear: "You must not love your kids as much as I do because if you really wanted to, you could make sacrifices too."

Are these true things to think? Do they even make sense? Not really. But our hearts and minds can play tricks on us, and mine sure have played a lot of tricks over the past 3 years.

I had a very special and powerful moment last year when I strongly felt God’s voice speaking to me, telling me that he saw me, he understood me, and he loved me just as I was. This is a different situation entirely, but it reminds me of when Jordan and I were in the Bahamas in 2015, and God very clearly appeared in a situation where we felt scared and alone.

Over the past 3 years of writing about by experiences working in my office job and being a mom to R and J, I have no doubt offended or hurt some of you by something I’ve said. I try to be extremely careful in my phrasing and the way I write about this topic, but I know I haven’t always done that perfectly. And that’s because I’m not perfect. Shocker, I know.

It’s been 3 years; some days I’m okay with working, and other days I’m really not okay with it. Some days I feel like I’m doing what God has called me to do, and other days I wonder why on earth I’m wasting time sitting in an office when my kids are smiling and laughing without me 10 miles away.

When I went on our women’s retreat last month, one of the speakers was in a wheelchair due to a brain stem stroke she experienced when she was 26. She can stand up for short periods of time and walk with assistance short distances, but otherwise she is completely contained to her wheelchair. I was so encouraged by her session, and a few things she said have stayed with me, but one I want to share here.

She said that she was talking with a friend who said that when people see a wheelchair, it’s like if you were wearing a shirt that said, “I’m fragile. Handle me with care.” And Katherine said, “My wheelchair is a physical reminder to people that I’m fragile, but don’t we all want that shirt? Aren’t we all fragile and want people to handle us with care?"

I think we forget sometimes that no one is as secure or put together or content in their life as it seems. We are all fragile, and moms especially (although I know much of this is true for anyone, mom or not) can be easily barraged by voices poking at all the ways we are failing our kids, all the ways we don’t measure up with our house d├ęcor and our decorated front porches and our choice of where to send our kids to school.

It’s just freaking hard to be a human sometimes.

We need more support from one another. We need more encouragement online and in person. And guys, we need more Jesus. We need to read our Bibles and pray and cover ourselves with the truth to combat the voices telling us we aren’t good enough.

Seriously, get off Instagram and open your Bible. Start anywhere. I am reading through the Bible this year and am currently in Judges. There’s a lot of weird crap that happens in the Old Testament, but the metanarrative speaks to how much God loves us. The people of Israel messed up a lot. Like, a lot a lot. And God keeps protecting them and fighting for them and keeping his promises to them. He wants to do the same for you.

So listen to me: you are doing a great job and you are an awesome mom. 

If you work in an office, if you work at home, if you work taking care of littles, if you work for yourself. Give yourself a pat on the back and go tell someone else they are awesome today.

And don’t forget: We are all a bit fragile. Handle with care.

22 comments:

  1. "Seriously, get off Instagram and open your Bible." YES!!! That has been my heart the past few months! Thanks for sharing this :) - Lauren

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is so beautifully written. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  3. All well said. I think I feel especially sensitive to what feels like criticism (real or perceived), because I literally feel like I’m giving 100% of myself to motherhood and it’s atill not enough. My Mom can be particularly critical and I hate it so much because I’m doing the best I can and I don’t need to hear that my best needs to be better.

    I think motherhood carries with it such self-doubt. Combine with with non-stop exhaustion, and you have the perfect storm for a fragile, overly sensitive human being.

    I know when I say things about working or SAHM motherhood, I’m always talking specifically about my situation and what has worked for us. And the fact is, I truly don’t judge other Moms for whatever path they took. SAHM was the best choice for us for a season, by now I don’t feel that’s the case anymore. And though I know it won’t be easy, I’m ready to go back to work full-time.

    I know I just projected my own stuff on your post, but obviously I have some feelings on this, as well :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think we all have feelings! I appreciate you sharing :)

      Delete
  4. If I didn't like the look of tattooes on me, I'd get this slogan inked on my forehead (maybe it would hide wrinkles and distract from the postpartum funky hairline bangs).

    I can let a lot of things go quite easily, but the other day, a family member said that N wasn't walking yet because I leave her in pajamas too much (based on the photos she sees in our private family album). This is clearly an absurd statement for many, many reasons, but it hit me hard and I cried into N's hair. Hormones man. I laughed about the ridiculousness of it later, but it was said to me at apparently the wrong time. I am working on forgiveness.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Beautiful, beautiful post. Although I obviously don't know what you are dealing with, I feel like there are a lot of similar criticisms/competitions when you are a military spouse. You are critizied for quitting your job because that's giving up your identity. You're critiziced for having a career becuase you miss out and can't be as involved in command stuff. Although I still have difficulty moving on from the criticism, or what I perceive as critism, I am confident in my choices (or rather, in the choices that I have been forced to make).

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you so much for your honesty! I think it's awesome that you're trying to be a voice of encouragement, support, and inclusivity. It's so good when we just talk about stuff instead of internalizing things and making judgments! A couple months ago I ran into a mom I'm acquainted with and we got on the topic of work and motherhood, since she's a full-time teacher and was on spring break. When I got home, I panicked and wondered, "What if she took things I said the wrong way and was offended?" so I messaged her to apologize and she said that not only was she not offended, but she was wanted to make sure that she had not said anything that I may have been offended by! All that to say, talking about motherhood and work is so tricky sometimes because you want to be sensitive to other people and their situations!

    Also, I've found that I often slip into the "what kind of work do you do?" line when I meet other people, but I'm trying REALLY hard to get away from this, because the human person is so much more than the work that he or she does. I've been trying to use lines like, "so what do you do for fun?" or "what have you been reading lately?" when I meet other people, because it's a great way to get to know another person, and it's also a fantastic way to get book recommendations ;)

    ReplyDelete
  7. We are all a little bit fragile. What a powerful reminder. As always, I love your posts where you open your heart a little. Thanks for your honesty. <3

    I'm in the middle of reading the 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You book that you recommended and just today I read the part about how when we read the Bible on our phones we are so likely to skim instead of read deeply. And I have found that to be true! Last year I read through the Bible with family using an old school bookmark that told me what chapters to read each day. And now this year our life group is reading the Bible together chronologically using an app on our phones. I have definitely found my reading time to be more rushed on the phone. So your reminder here to get off social media and spend some time in God's word is very timely with what I've been thinking about thanks to the book you recommended. We would all be kinder and more gracious to each other if we spent more time in scripture.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have found that also! I try to read the Bible in hard copy when I'm going through the chapters on my reading plan because it definitely helps me slow down. Glad you are liking the book!

      Delete
  8. How is he already almost 1!? I really feel like he was just born.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Love this. Can't believe how fast the kiddos are growing up.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Ok first how is that cute boy already almost 1??? How did that happen! I guess because I 'm not on facebook and generally don't have much time outside of family and work I'm not too exposed to the mom criticism but I will say my own mother is constantly worried Bowen is behind in everything. Drives me nuts!! I recently took him to have his speech assessed because I felt he was a bit behind. Everything turned out fine and they said he was well within range for his age. I told my mom and she said 'oh thank you so much for taking him I was so worried'. Um what?? Why are you thanking me, he is my child and I think I know what needs to be done. I will add this tidbit I know for sure I would work harder if I stayed at home vs working in the office no doubt.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Love the pic of you and your squad. I’ve thought of you often since I’ve been basically staying home full time after Owen was born. I miss the challenge of my job and I miss feeling like I contribute something to the organization. But when I start to feel frustrated with my current chapter, I remind myself that so many mom’s would love to be able to stay home. We’re all just doing the best we can.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanks so much for sharing this. I know I'm going to need to tuck some of these words away to pull out for those times people ask me whether I'm planning on going back to work after our son is born. I'm the primary breadwinner in the house. Not going back to work isn't something we can really plan for. And yet people love to heap on the guilt!

    ReplyDelete
  13. "There’s a lot of weird crap that happens in the Old Testament, but the metanarrative speaks to how much God loves us." So true! Last year I decided to go through the Old Testament and for some reason this time the two messages that come through were (1) God never leaves his people and (2) Israel's wandering was a necessary and expected part of the journey to the Promised Land. We shouldn't expect that our journey will never involve some wandering and course-correction, too.

    ReplyDelete
  14. This is absolutely wonderful. I want to print it out and tape it to my wall at work!! This is so encouraging. I deleted Facebook off my phone (for good, unless I need to download a picture or something) last fall and have read so much more of the Bible and other books on my phone during downtime or when I'm nursing/rocking my son to sleep at night. Thank you for sharing all this!!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Yes, yes, and yes! Regardless of where and how we work, moms are amazing. We should be supporting each other, and not listening to Satan's lies.

    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