How I See Myself

8.14.2019


R turned 4 this past weekend, and I know it’s everyone’s favorite cliché to say that it feels like just yesterday she was born, but in reality I actually don’t feel that way. I vividly remember how I felt as a new mom. Jordan and I had a very hard time transitioning from zero to one child (much harder for us than going from one to two), and it was challenging and stressful for those first few months. I realized later that I think I had at least a mild level of postpartum anxiety, and my recovery the first couple of weeks was extremely painful and difficult for me. All of that actually does in some ways feel like yesterday.

But R as a newborn? As a baby? It’s honestly hard to remember her as anything other than what she is now: a walking (really just running), talking, preschooler who loves twirly dresses and uses actual logic with me in conversations. I feel in once sense like I just became a mom and in another sense like I’ve always been one.

For better or worse, so much of my experience being a mom is tied to my experience being a mom who works full time outside the home. The first year going back to work after having R was truly the hardest of my life so far. I’ve never struggled with depression, but I do think I was legitimately depressed during that year. I struggled with jealousy, anger, and lots of guilt. I know not everyone struggles with working as much as I did (and in some ways still do), but I also know that many people have reached out to me over the past 4 years to thank me for sharing my story, to thank me for blog posts I’ve written or things I’ve said to them that have been encouraging, and to thank me for making them feel like they weren’t the only ones feeling those things.

I have been listening to the Risen Motherhood podcast for years now, and you’ve probably heard me mention it on the blog a time or two. Their first book is coming out in September, and I pre-ordered it and joined their launch time and private Facebook group. Women were sharing photos of their families and a short introduction to their lives, and it felt like the majority of the ladies introducing themselves are stay-at-home moms. Of those who did work, I saw an overwhelming theme of guilt coming from their posts—guilt either because they wanted to stay at home but couldn’t for whatever reason, or guilt because they could stay at home, but they liked working and felt like they were a better mom because of it.

I like to think I’ve learned a few things about motherhood over the last 4 years, and one of those things is how easy it is to feel guilty as a mom. We all can relate to feelings of guilt, even if the things we feel guilty about are different. The heart of so-called “mommy wars” stem from what seems like a mixture of pride and guilt. Pride in our choices of parenting as the “best” way, and guilt that’s based on nothing more than looking at someone else’s way of doing things and wondering, should I be doing it that way too?

The point of this is not to say who feels more guilt. This is not a working vs. staying at home debate. Those “debates” are harmful and unhelpful and unkind. We all have different, unique life experiences, and we are tasked to make the most of what we’ve been given. To compare someone else’s life to yours is to miss the entire point. (Talking to myself here, trust me!)

But what I can do—what we can all do—is speak from our own experiences out of a place of honesty and love to those who might be in a different place. So I can speak into my experience from a mom who works in an office job M-F, and I will tell you that I felt sad for moms who shared a lovely photo of their family, moms who love Jesus and are trying their best to raise their children well, and who ultimately feel guilt over their working situation. I know for a fact that it’s a heavy weight to bear, and I don’t think the church has done a good job speaking life into women who struggle with working outside the home (or inside the home if you work from home!).

Events for women—luncheons, playdates, and Bible studies—are planned during the week in the middle of the day. As if a woman who is at work during the day wouldn’t love to attend some of these functions. And certainly I’m not saying that every single event should be planned in the evenings and weekends. Moms who stay at home should have opportunities for fellowship during the day, and not everyone wants or has time to do things outside the typical 8-5.

But the church can do better at recognizing the huge gap in opportunities for moms who work during the week to be involved. I’m extremely thankful for my church, where I’ve seen amazing improvement over the last few years in this area. But from reading many of the comments on the intro posts in the Facebook group, I know a lot of working moms feel left out from church events.

Articles from major Christian platforms and biblical preachers speak about “full-time motherhood” and “staying at home to serve your children and your family.” As if a mom who is away from her home and her children during the work day is not, in fact, a full-time mom. (Do we call a dad who works full time not a “full-time” dad?) As if they are not also serving their families through their corporate or self-employed work. It can be discouraging. It can be hurtful.

I’m sure there are people reading this who don’t understand why I’ve written so much about working motherhood over the past four years. Maybe that’s you. Perhaps you’d rather me stop talking about the phrase “full-time mom” and don’t really get why it bothers me.

But I’m hopeful that there are more of you who do understand. Or who didn’t understand but now have more awareness on this topic and more sympathy for moms who feel the weight of this guilt of so much time away from their kids, who feel the sting of having yet another event planned during a time of day they just can’t go.

Four years ago I was living in a place of jealousy and anger over working. I was bitter. I was not happy. Today, I would be lying if I said I never get feelings of jealousy. Hearing of friends planning meet-ups at the zoo on a Tuesday morning or seeing pictures on social media of moms at the park with their kids on a Friday afternoon hurts a bit. I can’t help but wish I were doing that too.

But here’s what I’ve learned: being away from my kids during the work day doesn’t mean I love them any less. It doesn’t make me only a C+ mom. And it doesn’t mean that someone who is doing it differently is doing it better. For this season, God has me in this place, and I need to steward it well. And so do you with wherever you find yourself. There's so much freedom in that for all of us.

I mentioned earlier that I am part of the launch team for the Risen Motherhood book. All that means is that I pre-ordered a copy and that I guess I’m a Super Fan of this ministry ;) It also means I’m going to be sharing about it some with you all over the next month or so. I’m not getting paid to talk about it, and I purchased the book myself.

We got access to an advanced digital copy of the book to read before the official release, and I have to tell you: these next lines I’m about to quote SPOKE to me. The point of this blog post was not to plug the Risen Motherhood book, but I think these lines are actually the perfect way to end. (So I'll just also add that you can pre-order the book here!)

R turned 4 this past weekend, and I realized that I’ve viewed myself for so long through the lens of “working mom.” That’s how the world sees me. That’s how I see myself.

But as a Christian, that’s not how God sees me.

Maybe you see yourself as the “stay-at-home mom,” the “jealous mom,” the “tired mom,” the “not-very-fun mom.” Hear me, friend: that’s not how he sees you either. You don’t have to define yourself like that. (I’m still working on it myself.)

So let me share these lines with you, and hopefully they will encourage your heart as they did mine.

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“Many of us fear that our negative heart attitudes reflect who we truly are on the inside. We name ourselves: ‘I am the angry mom, the worrier, the stressed-out mom [adding: the jealous mom, the bitter mom]…” And without Christ, it’s true… But if you are a believer, you have union with Christ. This means Christ is in you. It is not Christ plus you, or Christ and then you, or Christ and not you. It is Christ in you, which means you have everything your warrior, dragon-slaying hero has.

“When you are stripped bare, when you peel away everything you believe defines you—your hobbies, dreams, skill sets, personality, weaknesses, and sinful tendencies [adding: your job]—who are you? If you are in Christ, then it is not the sinful, uncontrollable woman you fear who remains—it is Christ.

“Trust in the promises of God. Believe you are united with Christ. Exchange your worries, fears, and anger with the worship of our good and loving Father… Remember that nothing is meaningless in the Christian life. God uses wayward circumstances to reveal the waywardness of our hearts. Each day, as you feel the pressure mounting, the accusations accumulating, the temptations lurking, look to Christ to be all you need. He is strong where you are weak. He is perfect where you fail. He is your fullness when you are empty.” -Risen Motherhood Book (2019)

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We don't have to "do it all" or "be everything."
If you try that, you will fail.

We will never be enough. For ourselves, for our spouses, for our kids--no matter where we spend our week days.

Thankfully, he is.

What peace there is in that.

7 comments:

  1. Love this post so much! I feel really content in being a working Mom and I don't really feel guilty about that. But I do relate to feeling left out from daytime activities.

    And childcare logistics. UGH. I had to move heaven and Earth to figure out what we were going to do when the boys' sitter decided she wanted to take the 1st day of school off (she has two kids of her own). That part stinks.

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  2. Kaity - I love that you are so content as a working mom! Your IG posts about it are always so inspiring. I definitely know people who feel the same. I obviously struggle with it a lot, but I don't really feel as guilty anymore, so that's been a blessing. I think I default to thinking that it is as hard for everyone else as it is for me, but that's of course not the case, nor should it be!

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  3. I really loved this post. I just wanted to add that I just listened to a podcast where they were talking about something similar and though maybe it'd be helpful for you too. It's called The Real Life Podcast with Jeff and Alyssa Bethke and it's their latest episode (when you don't feel like you're enough).

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  4. I logged on to a different computer specifically so I could comment on this post. (I always read your blog but my MacBook is dumb about commenting.)
    For the past 4 years I've read your working mom posts as the grown child of working parents. There's a STRONG sense of worth ethic in my family- most of my relative are entrepreneurs or business owners. And obviously K and I are, too.
    But dang. I finally GET IT. I had a complete breakdown yesterday because the company we/K has heavily relies on me and I LOVE that and I LOVE my job. I won't get a traditional or long maternity leave and a part of that makes me sad, but a part of me HATES being away from my office for even a few days, let alone the month we're currently planning on. (I'll ease back in, then we'll have to figure out travel.) I feel so torn about loving my kid and loving my job. And she's not even here yet! And I realistically know that when she IS here, my emotions and feelings will all shift again and I'll have new priorities and needs to content with. Plus, I want K to have that time with her at home and it's 100% impossible for both of us to be out of the office for long periods of time. We've always called our company "our baby" and it truly is... but I am s.t.r.u.g.g.l.i.n.g. with adding a real, true, (obviously much more important, needy) baby to our lives. THe balance and guilt is already overwhelmingly hard.

    Just figured I'd comment because the emotions are still so fresh from yesterday.

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  5. I love this so much. I've fought really hard to be content with working right now. It may not always be my normal but for now it is - and I've found some gratitude in the relationships I have because I worked and "asked for help" with my kids - those people are still dear friends to me today AND I know they love my kids. The amount of "shame" thrown at me has often times been overwhelming (like friends getting together during the day leaving me and my daughter out, activities being during the work day, the comments on just quitting my job rather than help me out when I need it) but I've learned to shift my brain to gratitude for being able to work and provide an income right now when we need it, my kids are happy and thriving in their school setting AND for the connections I've made. I brush off their comments and hurtful words and remember I'm the best mom for my kids and I'd move heaven and earth for them - but they will be okay. And they are okay. I invest in the relationships with others who want to spend time with me and my kids rather than getting caught up in the ones who choose to not invest in the evenings. Thank you for writing about this and sharing it. I'm so dang thankful to know I'm not alone.

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  6. I have also noticed that so many "ladies events" like Bible studies or get-togethers, prayer meetings, lunches, etc, tend to all be smack in the middle of the morning or middle of the day and I honestly wonder who can go to them? At least here, many ladies events aren't for kids and don't have any childcare--I'm not even a working mom but I can't attend because I have my baby with me and I have the other kids to take care of. My mom can't go even though she doesn't have babies because she's got either work or kids to homeschool when she's not busy with work (she works full-time but when she's not traveling or in meetings she can work from home/computer, so it's flexible). Most moms work at office-hours jobs. So, seriously, who is attending such things? Not that there's any easy solution to scheduling for anybody because everyone's life looks a little different!

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  7. You know how I feel too about the "full time mom" comment. I also have had seen/read articles implying that the Christian woman should be staying home with their kids in order to do God's work and to serve her family in the way God intended and I cannot tell you how much that bothers me.

    Also, this - "Events for women—luncheons, playdates, and Bible studies—are planned during the week in the middle of the day. As if a woman who is at work during the day wouldn’t love to attend some of these functions. And certainly I’m not saying that every single event should be planned in the evenings and weekends. Moms who stay at home should have opportunities for fellowship during the day, and not everyone wants or has time to do things outside the typical 8-5." 1,000% yes. It makes me so mad that there are so many great women's events held at our church...DURING THE WORK DAY. Like, I'm sorry, but how is a working mom supposed to make it to the women's motherhood class on Tuesday morning at 10 AM.

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