Twelve months ago, I worked 30 hours a week outside of my home and in my “free time”, I cared for my three children, all under the age of five. Six months ago, I moved overseas and began a new season, in which I worked, and still work, fulltime within my home as a “stay-at-home” mom. I have lived on both sides of the street in the same year. It is out of the beauty of these two experiences that I write to you, my fellow mamas. Happy Valentine’s Day, mamas; you are loved.
TO MY FELLOW MAMAS WORKING OUTSIDE THE HOME
I sat at a tall restaurant table with two local businessmen, both highly respected in the community. I had called them together to request their help in networking with others who would possibly have an interest in partnering with my organization. Being very perceptive and knowledgeable in the business world, they began offering ideas and asking questions. At some point in the conversation, one of the men turned to me and queried, “How are you involved in the community outside of your work? What do you do to connect with people?”
That question hit my weak spot like a sharp arrow. I couldn’t control myself; I started crying as soon as I answered, “I don’t do anything. I have three kids.” The two men stared back at me dumbfounded. The meeting was a disaster.
When I had my first child, I discovered that my work life changed. For the sake of the child that I loved, I put boundaries on the time and energy that I spent working. For the sake of the work that I loved, I left my child in someone else’s care each week and was absent from home often on evenings and weekends. I felt that I could do well in both roles, but because my energy and attention were divided, I felt that I could not be excellent in either.
And so, after five years of pouring my entire self into two different worlds and juggling my time and energy between my children and my work, the businessman’s question brought my inadequacies to the surface. Of course I knew that I should be involved in the community. Of course I wanted to be involved in the community. But I was a mama stretched thin, who felt guilty for neglecting something that I had no capacity for.
At some point, working mamas, we will fall short of expectations. Even with all of our energy and best effort, we will fall short of our employer’s expectations of us, or of our children’s expectations of us… or more likely, of our own expectations for ourselves.
Interestingly, the Bible paints a picture of what some people see as the “ideal” woman. Talk about pressure.
One thing I appreciate about this theoretical woman is that she works. She works hard.
Below are some excerpts from Proverbs 31:10-31.
“She considers and field and buys it;
Out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously;
Her arms are strong for her tasks.
She sees that her trading is profitable,
And her lamp does not go out at night.
In her hand she holds the distaff
And grasps the spindle with her fingers.
She opens her arms to the poor
And extends her hands to the needy.”
“She speaks wisdom,
And faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
Her husband also, and he praises her:
‘Many women do noble things,
But you surpass them all.’”
“Honor her for all that her hands have done,
And let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”
This lady knows business. And investments. And finances. And social justice. And the right thing to say at the right time. And she receives the respect of her children and her husband. I want to be like her.
But seriously, when does she sleep?! Her lamp does not go out?!
Listen, mamas. You and I cannot be perfect women. I know, it’s difficult for those of us who care about meeting goals and reaching desired outcomes to admit that. But falling short opens us up to receive grace and truth.
Mama, you are a person of worth and value apart from your children. You are a person of worth and value apart from your career. Producing many well-behaved children does not make you worth more. Making a name for yourself or earning more money does not make you worth more. You have worth because God loves you.
Before Jesus began his ministry work, he was baptized. As he came up out of the water, God announced, out loud, “This is my Son; with him I am well pleased.”
God the Father was pleased with Jesus before Jesus accomplished anything. God the Father was pleased with Jesus because of their relationship.
Mama, God is pleased with you because you are His loved one, the one that He created and formed. Think about your own newborn baby. Before that baby could even smile back at you, you loved him or her. Because he or she was yours. And God loves you, regardless of your accomplishments, because you are His in Christ Jesus.
Even the Proverbs 31 description hints at this:
“A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
But a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”
What gives a woman noble character? Even our best efforts toward perfection are not good enough to meet God’s standards. Only trust in Jesus Christ can give you a right heart. This ideal woman has a major thing going in her favor. She lives in honor and awe of God.
When you build your life on a foundation of loving and honoring God, He will give you the strength and wisdom that you need to make a mark in your home and to make a mark in your workplace.
One thing from Proverbs 31 is clear. This woman’s work blessed her family. You also bless your family through your work, in more ways than bringing food to the table.
Your calling as a professional and your calling as a mom are not separate callings; they are linked by you and who God created you to be.
Can you lead a team of people? You can invest in your children with long-term intentionality.
Can you network? You can instill in your child the gift of knowing how to connect with people and show them grace.
Can you responsibly oversee finances? You can teach your children to manage their money for good purposes.
Can you speak with authority? You can direct your children to proclaim truth with gentleness and clarity.
Can you work ethically and faithfully in your field? You can influence your child to live with integrity.
Can you strive toward accomplishing a big vision? You can encourage your child to expect seemingly impossible things to become a reality.
Can you talk about your work with honor and pride? You can give your children hope to have a job for themselves that they can also enjoy.
The skills that your job refines are the skills that your kids need from you at home. God knew what He was doing when He called you into your work and also called you to raise up little ones to be wise men and women. And you, a mama loved and valued by God, are enough for your calling. May your children grow to look up to you and call you blessed.