Working Moms and Stay-at-Home Moms: It’s What You Give That Matters

“You can’t unring the bell.”

That’s what a program director who I use to work with always told me when we discussed the news of the day in the world of talk radio. The statement, fraught with finality, served as a strong reminder that you can’t undo what you did so no use mulling over things you can’t change.

Including choices.

If you work outside the home, you’re a working mom. If you don’t work in or outside the home, you haven been affectionately labeled, stay-at-home mom. How do these roles influence what we do as mothers? If you work, are you scrambling at 6:00 p.m. to get dinner on the table, a load of laundry into the machine and hurrying through homework with your child so you can have meaningful time together before they have to go to sleep?  Do you feel fulfilled spending your days doing something that you are passionate about while using your gifts and talents in ways that bring meaning to your life and/or the lives of others?  If you are at home with your children, are you (still) scrambling at 6:00 p.m. to get dinner on the table, a load of clothes folded and put away while hurrying through homework with your child so you can have that meaningful time together before they have to go to sleep?   Do you feel fulfilled spending your days caring for someone whom you are passionate about while using your gifts and talents to bring meaning to your role and to the life of another?

There are times when I think  I would have been a better mother had I gone back to work after having my first child.  And having had both in those early years would have been having the best of both worlds. Maybe had I returned to work, I wouldn’t have felt that some of my identity had slipped away. Afterall, my job wasn’t just a job, it was a career that I had built and loved, and it represented something that was also meaningful to me. If I could unring the bell, would I choose different? Maybe so.

While this is not a post debating the pros and cons of working moms vs. stay-at-home moms, it is about the contributions we make in our children’s lives, job or no job, and how our identity is alive and reflected in how we are raising them.

We are each on different paths that may start out in one direction and morph into another.  I have a friend, the mother of teens, who worked full time when her kids were young then quit her job when they entered into junior high school. I have another friend, who after being at home for several years after having her first child, is returning to school to pursue a master’s degree in an entirely different field from the one she had been working in before having children. For some, the days continue to be the same in a career they had before having children, and for others, their career might be on hold, pursued part-time or seem lost at sea.  We each take different routes on our motherhood maps, but we do set out for the same purpose: to raise our children with the best that we have to offer.

Teaching, supporting, providing and loving play a huge part of our identity because that’s what we are giving out–and the values, encouragement, provisions and love we give, are in direct relation to who we are.  Regardless of whether we are working moms or stay-at-home moms, what we’re giving to our children is a part of who we are, and that giving, is a bell we can rejoice in ringing for as long as we are given the opportunity.

Recommended Scriptures:

“For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.” (Psalm 48:14)

“The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” (Isaiah 58:11)

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

“Show me your ways O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” (Psalm 25:4-5)

“May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.” (Psalm 20:4)

 

 

Behind Closed Doors: Looking Where You Can’t Go

Today my daughter cracked opened the refrigerator and stuck her head in as far as she could while letting the door close on the side of her face.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Trying to see what the inside of the fridge looks like when it’s dark.” But because the light turns off when the door closes, doing so was impossible. Some realities just aren’t visible, and in this case, it was how the ketchup and mustard bottles appeared in the dark.

Do you ever wish you could look at something that you couldn’t see? Like what’s behind the closed doors in another person’s life, or wanting to preview the outcome of a decision before having to make it. Maybe it’s wanting to see the end result from a past choice made…or not made.  And wouldn’t it be reassuring to see into those places that are on the road ahead…like into the lives of our children? Who will they become? What will they be like as adults? Will they be healthy? What will their passions be? Careers? Will they marry and have children?  How do we settle those “what if” questions of what’s to come and what could have been?  I wonder what Moses would say.

Moses sadly, was not permitted to cross the Jordan to go into Canaan. As we read in the book of Exodus, we see  a nation coming out of one place and going into another.  We see a man, appointed by God, to lead an oppressed people out of bondage and into deliverance, freedom, and an everlasting covenant with God.

Before Moses’ death, God tells Moses to ascend Mount Nebo in Moab where he will be able to look across the Jordan River and see Canaan before he dies.  He will not be able to go into the land but he will be able to see the land from a distance. “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.” (Deut., 34:4) Although Moses could see the whole region from the top of Mount Nebo, he did not have the satisfaction of personally stepping onto its soil.  We deem this to be sad, frustrating and disappointing for Moses because we want his hard work to end with a reward. He faithfully led a disobedient nation for 40 years through the wilderness, teaching, instructing and praying for them while enduring their verbal abuse, disobedience and rebellion.  We want to see Moses cross that finish line. We want to see him arrive and physically bring Israel to the destination God had prepared for them, and see him experience the satisfaction that comes from accomplishing a job well done.

I think Moses’ Promised Land wasn’t that Promised Land.  Moses’ Promised Land may have been the intimate relationship he had with God. “The Lord would speak to Moses face-to-face, as a man speaks with his friend.” (Exodus 33:11) Moses had a unique relationship with God. Though he didn’t see God face-to-face, he was acquainted with God and God spoke to him as a friend, at times, audibly.

When Moses asked God to show him His glory because he wanted to see him in all his splendor, not masked by a burning bush or clouds, God gave Moses one of the most significant revelations about Himself found in the Bible. “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. ‘But,’ he said, ‘you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.’ Then the LORD said, ‘There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.’ ”  (Exodus 33:21)

Moses was able to see something far greater than the Promised Land. He was able to see and experience God’s favor and glory, as well as experience the blessings that come from being a faithful leader in obedience to God’s call. He also experienced a beautiful, close relationship with God, which we have the opportunity to enjoy today. Through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross and through His blood and resurrection, He has paid the penalty for our sins, and as a result, we can experience that same “face-to-face” closeness with God that Moses did….each and every day.

So wherever God calls you to go, walk by faith and know that He might be leading you to a place where the end result you had hoped for might not be visible by earthly standards.  Wherever God has called you out from, you can trust that not knowing the rest of that particular story is part of your present story…with plans to bring you to something greater accompanied by your faith in the unseen. You may not see the end result but the journey God has for you, with its hardships and blessings, may very well be your promised land rather than the land itself.

In my daughter’s case, the land was a shelf of condiments.

Recommended Scriptures:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:18)

“For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:13)

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’ ” (Isaiah 30:21)

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21)

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)

 

 

Mothers and Daughters Working it Out

Mothers and Daughters article from the Wall Street Journal.com (April 24,2012).

 

Drill Sergeant Mom

Today a friend shared that her husband feels she is no longer “fun.”

Admittedly, she was taken back by the comment, then realized perhaps he was right.  Afterall, she explained, “I’m Drill Sergeant Mom, Drill Sergeant Wife. Of course, I’m no fun!”

Sometimes it feels that most of our dialogue encompasses shout-outs, commands, dos, don’ts , have yous and did yous with our kids. It is easy to feel that our fun and spunk have been replaced by a spirit of seriousness and warfare mentality. We have to remember in those moments of frustration, our children are not our enemies and neither are our husbands.

My friend ended her story with the reminder that when we trust God, we can enjoy life right now.  When we put our cares into God’s hands and trust Him to equip us at handling the challenges of the day, we are freer to have fun and capture that fun spirit that is a part of our identity as moms and wives (or that use to be more prevalent before we had kids or even in our single days).  Knowing that when we trust God with the demands that weigh us down, we can be released from their hold and we do not have to carry the burdensome affects that can often permeate into our homes’ atmosphere.

Proverbs 31:25 talks about the Wife of Noble Character: “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” She can laugh, she can embrace the moment of the days and the days that are forthcoming, with whatever challenges they bring. The passage continues with: “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” (Proverbs 31:30)  When we draw our strength from God, seek the Lord first, and place our trust in Him, I believe He expands on the gifts that He has given to us to bless our husbands, children, parents, families, clients, friends and households. Those gifts may also come in the form of having even stronger attributes: possessing wisdom, discernment, reliability, sensitivity, compassion, in addition to the skills that make us successful in our careers, pursuits and ministries.  For in those characteristics that are continuously being strengthened in us, can result in love inside our homes and in our relationships, i.e., having children who cherish us and want to be in our company, a husband who is proud to be at our sides, who trusts in our judgment and appreciates our support. Powerful.

So the next time my friend is having a series of days where she is blowing her whistle, I know she is going to trust God with her cares by placing the whistle down, retiring her Sergeant’s uniform and perhaps grabbing a can of silly string or something to that effect to spray like crazy.

Her husband may just never know what hit him.

 Recommended Scriptures:

“An anxious heart weighs a man down. ” (Proverbs 12:25)

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” (Jeremiah 31:25)

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:11)

 

“Blahs” Turned Bright

Sometimes I don’t like myself.

When I am in that state, it’s hard to be around my kids. Before they were on the scene,  if I was feeling “blah,” I could withdraw and nobody would care. My identity and mood were mine and I could sit and stew to my heart’s content. I could sulk.  Call a friend. Exercise.  Escape in a book or some fluff magazine. Take a nap. Be alone.  But when you’re a mom, especially with younger kids, you can’t withdraw. (Well, maybe for a bit, but you still have to come out from your room and make dinner!) You’re cemented to the responsibility of being a lifeline to your children who skip alongside you on an invisible leash…that’s when the guilt rushes in. They didn’t ask for Mom to be in a bad mood or to have to bear the brunt of my humanness, hormones or various rocks I have stumbled over. So when I can’t depend on my identity or strong-enough self to pull us all out from my mini “me” crisis,  I rest in knowing there is someone who can.

He’s Big. He’s Strong. He’s Capable. He’s Trustworthy. He’s Intentional. Almighty.  A Refuge. A Comforter. Redeemer. He is our Savior.

I thank God for being bigger than myself to help me through the mood swings I experience, and sadly, cannot always control.  When I depend on God and ask for His strength, He sustains me through those weak moments when I have to be “on” as a parent. He empowers me to be humble and say, “I am sorry,” and provides the strength to persevere through the minutes….one moment at a time.  He also gives my children what they need. Sometimes their need (not desire) might be to observe someone else’s sadness and stress so they can learn to be comforters.  Sometimes they need to receive compassion, or  practice having a self-controlled, patient response when their needs are not getting met. Or maybe I need to curl up on the couch and read to them so I can learn that what I may need is to get past my focused self and press on in my responsibilities. There are many opportunities that God can use the “blahs” (otherwise known as grief, pain or challenges) in all our lives to help develop, shape and transform us into His likeness that can have far reaching effects into our characters…that’s an identity worth having.

I know in those dark moments, God’s light shines in…perhaps it doesn’t blind me from the obstacle as I would hope, but  strengthens and uplifts me. And sometimes, when we are standing on shaky ground, a second’s worth of firm foundation beneath our feet, is really all we need with the understanding that power like that comes from Him alone.

When God equips me in those moments, I am grateful that He is loving enough to breathe His identity into me.

Until I can like myself again.

 Recommended Scripture:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans, 8:28)

“Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him.” (Isaiah, 30:18)

“I lift up my eyes to the hills–where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip–he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you–the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm–he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” (Psalm 121)