Yesterday my sister told me about another family from our church. The mom was all set to go back to work full-time after maternity leave (serious baby boom over at 1027 church). She loves her work, is good at it, and has always planned on being a working mom, at least since I’ve known her. And suddenly and unexpectedly the Lord provided a way for her to go back only part-time. And today the only other full-time working mom told me she had quit her job and was hired part-time elsewhere.
I know that these stories have nothing to do with me. Really I do. I know that no one but my family bases their decisions on what is best for me and my kids. But somehow this felt very personal to me. She was supposed to be my working mom friend. My one friend who the Lord called to the same place He called me.
DISCLAIMER: If you are reading this right now and thinking, what the heck I am a full-time working mom that is following hard after Jesus, don’t I count? The answer is probably you do count, the Lord was taking me through something. And I am sorry, I should have thought of you, I was just being self-centered. I am working on it.
I suppose I should have heard this story and thought, wow, just as the Lord moved a woman’s heart, He provided the means to follow that dream…..and I should have been encouraged. And I suppose that today I should have heard that if the Lord wants to move me out of teaching full-time, He will, just as He did this woman. Instead I heard that God didn’t have the same thing for someone else as He had for me, and I began seriously doubting myself.
What if those Christians who insist that anyone other than the mother being the primary care-giver is against God’s plan are right? What if I only thought we have been openly praying and seeking the Lord’s will in our life but really I am just totally closed off to the possibility of not working, so God can’t tell me even though I sought Him for a month with what I thought was no agenda but I really did have an agenda I just didn’t know it? Wow…that last sentence did not seem that ridiculous in my head, in fact it kind of made sense. Now it is just really embarrassing.
Anyway, I was having some serious working-mom issues. Like, if I only wanted to be with my girls bad enough, God would provide a way. Or, the women who stay at home more than me, they are better mother’s than I. God has me working because I am not a good mom. Or most ridiculously, I should at least be miserable in my situation. Liking my life as it is right now, spending 40 hours a week away from my kiddo’s speaks to my ineptitude as a parent. Every moment I am not with them should kill me. I am a bad person for enjoying myself at work. It means my kids are not my greatest treasure.
As I type this out I can see how absurd it truly is. I had teachers in High school who hated their job, those classes were miserable even if I liked the subject. But my tenth grade English teacher, and my ninth and tenth grade history teachers, and the entire Spanish department at Whitmer High School (shout out to Senora Jaeger!) they really enjoyed what they did, and it ministered to me. I still remember their names and the things they taught me. And I remember how they seemed to like me and my class mates and the things we were learning. I know that me getting such a kick out of my job most days is beneficial to my students. I hope my girls have teachers who enjoy their jobs. Feel called to them even.
Beyond that, I have prayed repeatedly that God’s will be done. And rather than have me hit it big on the blog scene and get offered a book deal for the book I have yet to write, He put me in a relationship with Elizabeth and her kids, expanded my family in ways I did not know were possible, and allowed me to truly live the gospel. This semester we changed the kids schedule for the first time in a year and a half. The same semester we moved from Tuesdays and Thursdays to Mondays and Wednesdays, an employment opportunity landed in her lap for Thursdays.
God has so clearly gone before me. In school switches, in child-care, in moving to Atlanta. But none of the other women in my church are doing it this way. So I doubt. Even though I am happier when I am working, and my marriage is better, and I never ever doubt that my kids are being loved as well as I could love them.
No one from my church has ever made me feel anything but encouraged as far as my work is concerned. But there is something about doing anything in a way that isn’t normal, especially within the larger Christian culture, that doesn’t sit right. I have heard one too many speakers insinuate that a woman’s place is in the home, her only place. Read one too many “Biblical Woman” bible study that cites any woman’s greatest work as her submission to her husband. And while I know these things are not true, there was a piece of my heart that believed them.
I am replacing those lies with this truth. My mother-in-law worked. And the Lord provided her with a woman named Fay to take care of her children. Christian stills speak fondly of Fay. Christian doesn’t say that his mom didn’t invest in him or that she loved her job more than him. He says “Mom worked really hard, and our family is still reaping the fruit of that today” and “Fay was awesome.”
Those of us who were really into the youth group circuit when I Kissed Dating Goodbye came out are used to this narrative: I am a Christian. God spoke into my heart that I was supposed to do (fill in the blank) this certain way. Which make this certain way God’s way. Period. For everyone, not just for me. Do it that way.
While this would certainly make being a Christian easier, I am learning daily that God does have some certain way kind of words: with kindness, with gentleness, prayerfully, lovingly, faithfully. That is the way God wants me to mother, to teach, to live. And that is hard for us, because it looks different for everyone, there is no set path.
I am a good mom because I am following God’s design for my family in this season, as are everyone else that I mentioned here. Maybe that doesn’t look like anyone else’s path (Seriously, anyone else a sitter-swapper out there…..anyone?) and maybe that is just fine. With me and with God.