For 20 years I've carried working mom guilt. I've felt a certain sense of shame that my attention was divided between work and my children. But that all ended this week.
Why you ask?
No, I didn't quit my job. At this point I realize I have to keep working for 12-17 years. The reward that is called "retirement" is almost in sight.
What changed then? God opened my mind to the Proverbs 31 woman.
I know a lot of women who had children and were able to quit their job. I know women who never had kids but still didn't work because their husbands were the provider. As much as I wanted to be that woman, at least for the first five years of my kiddos lives, it never happened. My husband was laid off from his job the day my principal was turning in my letter of resignation to the school board. I called and begged her not to because I needed to go back to work.
My son was three months old.
I cried every day on the way to work for two weeks. Then I prayed every day for the next five years, "God, bring me home. I want to be home with my kids."
I thought it was finally happening the year I was going to homeschool. We prayed and God said to homeschool. My husband was a mobile notary and doing well so I rejected my contract for the next school year. That was the same year the housing market crashed leaving both of us jobless. Provision came through me working my home-based business and then subbing. The following year I was hired to oversee other homeschool students with the charter school I was schooling my son through.
Along the way some people encouraged me. Others condemned. Some actually told me we were outside the will of God, especially when my husband stayed home with the kids the first three years. But here's the thing---we prayed and prayed and did the math. At his current salary level I would still needed to open a home daycare (work). Me returning to the classroom provided enough for him to be home and shower our kids with all the love and attention they needed. It seemed to both of us that was God's will, especially since I would actually work a lot less if I was in the classroom and our kids would have the undivided attention of one of their parents all day long.
Some of you reading this may think "Of course, it makes sense. So why the guilt?"
Well, especially back then, working moms were not the majority especially where we lived. We moved an hour north from San Diego where the housing prices were lower. We thought we were doing everything right. So way did everything go so wrong?
This week I struggled to make it to woman's Bible study. Thursday at 10sm used to be doable for me, but the past two years it's been a struggle because of increased duties with my job. I listened to Livestream on the way and walked in fifteen minutes late. I told myself I wanted to listen, but my mind was distracted. I looked around at the ladies and wished I could be like some of them and not work.
Pastor Miranda went over several verses. She explained the Hebrew and gave examples. And at the end, she said right to us, "You are the Proverbs 31 woman. That's who God made you to be."
I didn't believe it. See, I was stuck on verse 28 "Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her:" Sure, they praise me on Mother's Day and my birthday, but otherwise the things I do go mostly unseen. The hours spend shopping, meal planning, vacation planning, schedule planning don't bring about a thank you. I make sure they all have the clothes they need, the food they need, and that we have the money we need. While the praise twice a year is nice, I work constantly. I judged that I wasn't that Proverbs 31 woman because they didn't praise me more.
The day after Bible study I reread Proverbs 31. When I got to verses 16-18, it was like the Holy Spirit highlighted the verse and said "This is you. You are who you were made to be." The words continued until two decades of guilt washed away. I was never outside God's will because I was working. He made me to work hard and juggle my family, my writing career, my ministries, and a full time job.
If you are a working mama, God sees you and has called you for such a time. I pray you will see yourself as a Proverbs 31 woman. You are amazing. You are strong. You can do all God has called you to do.
To those ladies who don't work outside the home, you are the Proverbs 31 woman as well. Raising good humans is no small task, as is keeping a home. Be grateful for each moment you have with your kids and continue to be about the Lord's business in all areas of your life.
And to all ladies out there, let go of your shame and refuse to shame others. The body is made up of a variety of people with different callings and gifts. Thank You Lord for diversity! May we all learn to build up instead of tear down.