Heart on my Sleeve

Saturday, June 24, 2006 20 Comments A+ a-

I have contemplated writing this for many, many, many months now; probably since Devyn was a few months old. I've taken this opinion and looked at it from so many different angles, I think my head is spinning from the ideas. I'm still not sure which angle I'm going to use and I probably won't figure it out until I get to the end. Regardless, please know that a lot of thought when into writing this and this is just one mama wearing her heart on her sleeve.

Time and time again, I've heard the outcry from stay-at-home moms who feel that their work is underappreciated and receiving little respect or recognition for their work. It's true that women don't go into motherhood (stay-at-home or otherwise) for the glamour or glory and I, for one, am
very much in awe of the stay-at-home mom and all she accomplishes in a day. So, to that, I tip my hat to you. However, since I had Devyn I've noticed a new stereotype and/or attitude permeating the air among Christian mommy communities. One that I'm sure some of you aren't even aware exists but one that has become very apparent to me, maybe from my own experiences or my own guilt. It involves working moms and the stigma associated with them.

When I first had Devyn, I was approached by woman after woman in the church; all wanting to coo over the new baby and make kissy noise over the new family. I loved that part but I always dreaded the question that I knew would soon follow the well-wishes. "So, what are your plans? Are you excited to become a stay-at-home mom?" When I answered with no, that I was planning to return to work after maternity leave, I was met with one of two looks. The disapproving-shaken-head look or the "oh-you're-one-of-those-mom" looks. Rarely did I meet a woman or fellow mom who patted me on the back in sympathy or give me a reassuring smile that regardless, I'd be an excellent mom, no matter what.

Yes, I'm quite aware that Jesus calls women to the home; that my ministry is to my children and husband. I'm very aware of the benefits of having a stay-at-home mom and what she brings to the family and children. My own mother was a stay-at-home mom for 20 years and I absolutely loved knowing that I was going home to her and the security of that knowledge. I know these things and fully support them. However, unlike most women I know and the fact that times have changed, we absolutely cannot afford for me to be a stay-at-home mom. It's just not possible for this wife and mom. My husband is a state employee and he loves his job, which was the only thing that has ever mattered to me. I have never cared what my husband did for a living, as long as he loved it and came home happy every night. Unfortunately, the state's pay is piddly and if you take away the $600-something per month for family medical insurance, you'll realize why I have to work.

"Sacrifices" one woman crowed to me upon hearing my plan to return to work, "It's possible, you just have to make sacrifices to become a stay-at-home mom. It's putting action to faith in God." Yes, this lecture actually happened and is one of the most thorn-in-my-side moments of this mommy's journey. It really burns me that the insinuation is there that because I was working outside of the home, that I must not really trust God or have faith in His provisions. Do I think God provides for our needs? Of course. I have no doubts that if an unexpected doctor's visit or a reduction in a paycheck occurred, God would provide for those needs. However, I do feel that God has called us to be good stewards of the resources He gave us and I think expecting God to fill in a $800-$1000 gap in our income every month is both unwise and foolish.

Yes, I'm aware I could quit my job, apply for state programs, and my husband could even get a second job to help pay bills, but at least I'd be at thome with the kids, right? Wrong! Personally, I find nothing wrong with state programs, if that's what works for your family. It would not work for mine because we have strong convictions that those programs are for emergency-use only. If we were to both lose our jobs, we'd have no qualms with putting those program to use until we could get back on our feet. However, we feel that since we're both capable and strong enough to work, we need to provide for our family together.

As to the idea that my husband could get a second job, he could but I won't let him. I feel his presence is just as important as mine in the family circle. I feel it would be completely wrong and selfis
h of me to expect him to work day and night while I'm home alone with the kids. I treasure our nights together and feel those nights of family togetherness can't be replaced the extra income he'd bring in by working those same nights. Now, I have no doubts that if in a pinch, my husband would do just that, but this isn't even an option for a long-term solution.

Now, we're really hoping that I'll be able to work part-time once this second child arrives. (Gotta have that medical insurance for the whole family...) I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to that extra time with Devyn and this new little one that's on the way. The thought of getting more time with them is precious and sacred to me and if I really get to do this, I know I'll never take it for granted.

I was to reiterate that it is already hard for the women who have to work outside the home, without feeling judged or condemned for that decision. This judgment or stereotype that women are sinning for working outside the home is wrong, and if you find yourself thinking these thoughts or judging that woman, I beg of you to stop. I simply ask for the same respect for our family's decision that I give to you, the stay-at-home mom. Instead of creating two different camps in God's kingdom, the stay-at-home moms vs. the working moms, why aren't we coming together in fellowship and love to offer encouragement and support to one another? Our days may look completely different but don't we have the important things in common? Our love for our children; our love for God; and our desire to raise our families with God at the center. Isn't that all that matters?

I’m a coffee drinking, book reading, laundry procrastinating, husband and children loving, mess of a woman who believes that chips and salsa can fix anything. We have chickens running around the backyard, a mountain of dishes in the sink, and on any given morning, I have at least 10 school forms that need my signature or initials. It’s a crazy life {I prefer to call it controlled chaos}, but its ours.

20 comments

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Amy...
AUTHOR
8:15 AM delete

Well said! The "mommy wars" are so sad to me. It makes me cringe when I hear someone express judgement either way, especially in Christian circles. I enjoy reading about your life as a mama...you sound like a good one!

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Sarah
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10:04 AM delete

why does there even need to be judgement coming from either side? I think it's because judgement comes from insecurity and we must, as moms, be insecure with our decisions if we are feeling the need to judge others on issues that have no scriptural absolutes. We all make choices in life, hopefully doing the best we can to figure out what God wants for us and our families. We won't always make the perfect choices, but the bottom line is, that's between each of us and our Lord. Our job as sisters in Christ is to love each other, build each other up, carry each other's burdens when we can, and yes, give wanted accountability, but we have to be careful about the line between accountability and judgement. I love you Jenn and you know I think you're a great mom. You have nothing but love and respect from me!
Love, Sarah

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Anonymous
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10:12 AM delete

Dearest Jen,
I am crying right now as I read this, imagining the pain you must feel. You are such a great mom and one of the most incredible wives I know. It just pains me to know that you have to endure such hypocrisy from other believers.
The single most important thing that most beleivers are not aware of, or either choose not to honor, is that we are all our own individual priest to God!! God totally knows your deepest most thoughts and your motives for everything in life and you and only YOU are responsible to Him for all your decisions in life. The believers who are doing this to you are not glorying God. Please do not ever let these people discourage you and what you are doing sweetie! I always think about how satan wants to do the three D's to us as Christians and that is Decieve, Divide and Destroy. So, let those who are doing this or thinking those thoughts be responsible to God for wanting to be a part of those three D's. OH, I could go on for ever, especially on this subject, just know you and Jon are doing what is right for your family and you are glorifying Him by your marriage and your love for one another and your family!!!
I love you Jen and want you to know that I respect your decisions.
Colleen

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Mrs Blythe
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11:01 AM delete

Hi Jen, thanks for sharing this. It is so hard to be honest sometimes for fear of recriminations. I've been down both roads. I used to work, then I didn't, then I was resentful that I couldn't, then I gave in to what God had ordained for me, then I became a 'born-again stay at home mum', then I realised I was being too dogmatic about this and could hurt my fellow sisters who did work and have children. So I repented. So you see I've come full circle! I still don't work and don't want to return. But I don't want to judge anyone who does work or who has to work.

We know that when we see Jesus face-to-face all we will see is love and acceptance despite the mistakes we may, or may not, have made in our lives. We all see through a glass darkly. No-one sees the whole picture.

I recently posted on my blog that I sometimes drank wine and I believed it was biblical to be allowed to drink wine, however some sisters disagreed - which is OK. None of us see the whole picture, one day we will and we will be overwhelmed by the love Christ has for us and will forget our little differences over these things.

Many Blessings, I love your blog :o)

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monica
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12:20 PM delete

Ok. That's just stupid. I'm a strong believer. My ex husband left when i was preggo and I was left on my own with my baby. So in some christian circles I was not only looked at as a divorced woman but a working mom and it was awful at times. Honestly, if your community is not supportive and judging you on thse things, then I would leave. The only thing worth loosing someone over is the cross of Christ. The rest, is honestly debatable. Seriously.

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Jess
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2:55 PM delete

So many swirling thoughts in my head right now about this. As for motherhood, I did, actually, come in to it for the glory. The glory of bringing honor to God thru my child and how I will raise her. You can't run a marathon & feel no pain. I feel that this is a blessed vocation that God does not easily bestow on all women. "Chilren are gifts from God" and we must treat them as such. We birth them, we raise them, and I feel that goes hand-in-hand. I am not one to judge a working mom. Who am I to judge anyone? I am very sorry you have to endure judgement from fellow "Christian" mommies. But I do feel that you're probably on the defense for decisions you've made, like you need to give reason for your decision. I'm totally not going to point a finger at you & "crow" anything about "sacrifices", but that is what it boils down to, to me. It is a huge sacrifice. Sacrifice of self, of money, of feeling worthy of a paycheck. Of sanity even, at times!

Jenn, I love you too much to go into my whole thought-procees in a comment box, but I will never judge your decisions. I will love you for the family, mommy, sister in Christ that you are to me. But I'll happily wear the "sahm" tag & not allow Satan to divide God's family. I am wondering if you've ever asked your pastor his views on this subject? Or what you've read about it? Aside from the playground whispers. Or if you'd want to read something about it?

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Jennifer
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4:45 PM delete

I'll admit that I may be on the defensive. I hate having to jump right into our reasons for my working upon answering the "are you a stay-at-home mom?" question. I merely wanted to point out that I'm sure there's a number of working moms who have very valid reasons for working.

Jess, I know you don't mean anything by it but every time I hear a stay-at-home mom say that they make sacrifices to be at home, I cringe. Again, there's the implication that I, as a working mom, do not sacrifice for my child. As far as I'm concerned, becoming a mother, a good mother, is the epitome of sacrifice. Suddenly, we're charged with the care, well-being, and raising of a human being. This entails that ALL of our needs become second to those of our children, and even sometimes husbands. To be a mother is to sacrifice, stay-at-home or otherwise.

(On a side note, I feel that living with my parents for the next six months so we can afford for me to be home part-time is a HUGE sacrifice. Just kidding, Mom.)

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5:33 PM delete

Jenn,
I agree with you. The quicker we can stop judging others, the quicker we will feel set free from the bondage of sin. I have experienced the same thing. This year we are required to study the language...meaning I have to go to school part of the day. Boy, when I told this to some of my friends, the backlash I got was unbelievable. Being a people pleaser by nature, I had a hard time with this.
In the end, I realized that I am the one who stands before the Lord to answer for my actions, not them. And, my husband has asked me to do it...if I am to submit to him, then why should I feel guilty for something, that, due to circumstances, I can't change??
Thanks for sharing!!

Blessings to you on your journey!!

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Ellie
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9:32 PM delete

I just want to comment on the topic of "judging". I think this is one of the most misunderstood things about Christianity. The Bible makes clear that we aren't to judge non-believers... God only knows their conscious and the convictions written on their hearts. But He is also clear in His word that we are to hold one another IN CHRIST accountable for our actions. Judging has such a negative connotation... but the truth of the matter is that "by their fruits you shall know them." And for the good of the entire Christian community... it's important to trim the hedges every now and again.

Regarding SAHM vs. Working moms... I think if a mother NEEDS to work... all glory and praise for her kicking in to help out the family. But too often we have a wrong idea of what our NEEDS are. I don't know you Jen, so I'm not in the position to say what your financial needs are, but in general certain lifestyles could use some humbling in order that one parent is always home with the kids. Children, in every possible circumstance, deserve that. We are raising souls for CHRIST!!! What an awesome responsibility and privilige! We are responsible for their moral formation and nights and weekends don't usually cut it as far as parenting goes. Kids need QUANTITY time as much as they need QUALITY time... we can't always pre-program important conversations and such... they need to trust that we'll be there when they are ready, not when it's convenient for us.

Again, I know not everyone can be a single-income family. For those I truly grieve. But I have a college degree and could easily get a job to make that mortgage payment a "little" less uncomfortable... and hey, I'd love to be able to buy my kids brand new clothes all the time... but the reality is that what I'm giving them right now is far more precious than any of this... I'm giving my time, my self, my whole life. It's not easy. Christ never said things would be easy... He only promised that it would be worth it in the end. That's my thoughts on the topic.

Best wishes on your new baby Jenn!

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10:18 PM delete

Hi Jenn,

I am sorry if I've contributed to making you feel this way. Please forgive me. I need to be more sensitive to where others are in their journeys and I'm glad you said something. I know that was as hard for you to write as it was for you to make the decision. But believe me, I know exactly what you are going through. We were in your same shoes not so many years ago.

I went back to work 6-8 weeks after each of my first three babies - we couldn't really afford it, but we made the choice for me to work part-time anyway. (After the fourth, the child care cost about as much as I made working, so it was an obvious choice for me to quit!)

I felt a lot of guilt during those years. I had this idea of being a perfect mother that was impossible to achieve in real life. I didn't do a good job of asking my husband for much help, so I felt like a failure at home because I simply couldn't do it "all;" AND at work, because I was a "part timer." In reality, I WAS there for the important events, and even there for most meals and tuck-ins (I worked nights as an RN). The fact is, I never harmed any of my patients, and only my oldest daughter (even remembers that I ever worked. So much of it was a raging battle in my own mind. I let it sap a lot of the joy right out of me.

There were many months when my paycheck meant the difference between us going under or not. Even though it was hard, my adding a little to the family income during those SEVEN years gave my husband the time he needed to grow in his job, and actually find his career path, in his 30s. We did have the goal of me quitting at some point, so he also went back to school during that time (it's a long and sordid story including downsizing homes, etc.). When I finally did quit, it was painful, but not as painful as it could have been a few years earlier (as part of our goal, I cut back my hours every time he got a raise so we wouldn't get so used to the two incomes).

I do believe God designed us to get our greatest fulfillment from being a wife and mother, and I think having a goal of being home is a worthy one. The bottom line for me: You will always be your children's mother, the most influential woman in their lives, whether you work outside the home or not. Women have always worked; it's just more complicated in our modern society where you don't have the family/community support of the olden days, and that tends to polarize things. Even today, though, there ARE working women out there who are great moms, who handle their jobs with joy (just as I have seen more than one woman at home doing a terrible job of mothering!). Of course, the opposite of each of these is true, too. Let's not fall into stereotypes.

If you have your husband's blessing and support (don't make my mistakes!), do what you believe you need to do, and trust God to help you be the woman, wife and mother He wants you to be to your precious family. If your heart's desire is to honor Him, you will have no trouble keeping your priorities straight. It's ALL an act of faith.

Jenn, God is so much bigger than what others think, and I've noticed He seems to enjoy coming through when our circumstances are less than perfect. Rest in Him (Ps 37:7).

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Anonymous
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12:12 AM delete

Jenn, You have said a lot and I know it was from your heart. I'm not a stay at home Mom. In fact, I'm not a mom at all. I'm the Dad to 3 great men. Not so much because their mom did stay at home for the biggest part of their lives. That was a decision we both made together in a culture where it was even more expected than now. They have experienced good parenting, period. They are great men not because one parent stayed home and the other one worked 40 or more hours a week. But because they have parents who loved them from their hearts and who were willng to sacrifice some personal things. As a parent that worked 40 or more hours a week I missed very few parent teacher confs. I went on most field trips, even to the bottom of the Grand Canyon with Brock. I coached them in soccer and basketball, took days off to go fishing and skiing. I helped disect a cows eye, heart, and lung in their class rooms. Time was taken to delivery Josh to college in Indiana. And, you know all about the doctor visits and trips to the ER. And then there were all the great vacations to visit family and freinds. And if you were to ask them, they would tell you that we were good parents. I know this because they tell me this through out the year. Not just Fathers Day. Am I tooting my horn a bit. Sure, but I made the SACRIFICES by working 40 hours a week to do it.

Some times what matters most is the quality of time, not the amount of time. Next time a stay at home mom asks you for your plan, maybe you should tell them you've decided on quality of time. Not putting them in the daycare class when they are at the rec center working out, or taking them to the park to play so they can gossip with all the other stay at home moms. There are even some malls that have day care for the stay at home moms. Ask them if they can really talk to their child on those walks around the block when they are listening to their IPOD. Ask them whats going on with their favorite soap, or what's Doctor Phil and Oprah up to these days. I might have hit some tender spots I shouldn't have but oh well. I'm sure not all stay at home moms do those things. But, look around and see all the things that stay at home moms can do in this culture that is for them and not for their children.

Jenn, you and Jon are great parents. Some what due to the homes you grew up in, but more because I know and see how you have placed Devyn as the priority even though you both work. We will all have choices to make on our journeys through life. You have chosen to be parents and a family that puts more importance on following God's direction and not what others tell you. In my eyes it doesn't matter what choice you make I will never criticize you unless that decision is made without the direction from the Lord.

Regardless of what others might think of you for working, you and Jon are and will be good parents. And Devyn and the next ones to come will know that by what's in your HEARTS. So, to all those stay at home moms giving you a hard time. Well, just send them to me and I'll set them on the straight and narrow.

I love you guys so very much.
Dave

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12:13 AM delete

Katherine,
Those are great words.
Jenn, I, too, want to apologize if Ive done anything to make you feel judged.
I know I already posted, just wanted you to know that I'm sorry if I've contributed in any way!

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Dana Glover
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7:16 AM delete

Jenn,
Even though I am a SAHM, I assure you that I do not judge you for your decision to work. I only became a SAHM after Hunterman's health declined b/c of daycare illnesses and CJ had a very bad experience with a teacher at his preschool. Fortunately, we were financially able to make the change. I agree with you completely -- all mothers make sacrifices. I honestly loved working and miss it so much. I am grateful that I have been able to work from home part-time. And truthfully, after CJ begins kindergarten, Hunterman will again experience daycare while I work part-time outside of the home. Now --- can you hear the judgements made about a woman choosing to work when she doesn't necessarily have to????

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Jennifer
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7:36 AM delete

First of all, thank you for all of the comments. You have all given me so much to think about and I thank you for trying to understand where I, and other working moms, are coming from.

Katherine, Joy - I have never felt judged from you guys. I look at all of the stay-at-home mommy blogs on my list as women I respect and look up to. If I ever get to become a stay-at-home mom, I already have wonderful ideas because of you. Katherine, I especially admire you because I've read your story and I know that you used to work and now look where God has brought you. It's a source of inspiration for me, that one day, I will get there too.

Ellie - Thank you for your comments. I know there's a lot of truth in the accountability vs. judgement in the Christian faith. I think the important thing with accountability is that one, the person needs to open to it. It won't work if the brother or sister in Christ is not ready or willing to hear it. And two, keeping accountability between two people who know each other and know that they have the others best interests at heart. I already have an accountability partner who actually is a stay-at-home mom. She is such a strong Christian and I love that I can be vulnerable with her, yet at the same time, she'll keep me accountable to God's truths and isn't afraid to point out when she thinks I've stepped outside of God's will in any area of my life; daughter, sister, wife, mother, etc. Its a wonderful relationship and one that is very dear to me and necessary for this Christian walk.

I would like to point out that for the sake of the blog entry, I really kept the working moms as a general topic. Personally, my heart is at home. I've never felt more fulfilled than the moment I became Devyn's mother and I realized what an awesome responsibility God gave me. It's because I much rather be home with Devyn that makes working so much harder for me. I can't tell you how many times I've dropped her off at my mom's or sister's and cried all the way to work. It's the hardest thing I've ever done and I'm relishing the thought of having even those 20 extra hours a week with them. I can't wait!!!

However, I would be lying if I said the thought of losing half my income didn't terrify me because it does, seriously. When I find myself getting anxious at the thought, I keep reminding myself that we'll be ok and God will take care of us. The hardest thing for me will be having the "extra" income every month. I told my sister, Christine, that life just doesn't seem fair sometimes. Here I'll be working part-time and still making the same sacrifices as the moms who get to be home full-time. But I know that it'll be so worth it because I'll be a happier and more fulfilled mother

So, in regards to myself, personally, I know where my heart is and where I belong, its just a matter of getting there. Living with my parents so we can become debt-free is the biggest step we've taken to accomplishing that goal.

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Katrina
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7:57 AM delete

Jenn, I am new to your blog, and I had to comment on this post. Thank you so much for your honesty, for sharing your heart on this topic. Just from reading your blog, it is so clear that you love and treasure your role as mom. And you obviously *are* making sacrifices - as you've said, it is a sacrifice to drive to work when you really want to be with sweet Devyn.

I wish that women - especially Christian women - could put aside the judgment and just support each other. Throughout the 7+ years that I've been a mom, there have been times when I've had to work from home to bring in enough money to cover the bills. I'm thankful that at this point, I don't have to, but I know the stress of realizing that the money coming in just cannot stretch far enough to cover all the necessities. Please know that, although I am just a stranger, I support you! No judgment here!

Keep seeking God. He will continue to show you his provision - even if that provision comes through means that aren't "acceptable" to the judgmental types out there. He will guide you. And he will bless you and your family.

-Katrina

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Joy
AUTHOR
3:13 PM delete

Pretty controversal topic, eh? Thanks for sharing your heart with us.

I personally had a hard time leaving work when I had kids. Always thought it would be a black and white issue - of course I'd stay home with my kids - but once the decision was in front of me, it was really, really hard to make. I did work part-time from home until my second one came along, while we were trying to whittle down the student loans.

Thanks for sharing your struggles. It's a good reminder to watch my words and attitudes towards others.

My current struggle is to homeschool or not... and it's another controversial issue within the Christian community. So we pray A LOT and trust God will lead our family in the right direction, as I know he will lead you and your family.

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5:22 PM delete

The other Joy is right, homeschooling is another HOT topic among Christian women. WHY? WHY? WHY can't we stop pointing the finger at each other? We are no better than the world, if this is how we treat sisters in Christ!

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Overwhelmed!
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2:27 PM delete

Excellent post! Can you believe I was afraid to admit to other moms that I'd be going back to work after we adopted Snuggle Bug? I feared the judgement.

I would LOVE to stay at home with my son, but it's not financially feasible for us either. My husband has a profession that allows him to work from home and so he's at home caring for our son and working when he naps, in the evenings, and on the weekends.

I don't have the type of career that allows me to work from home. I miss my time away from Snuggle Bug, but I make the most of the time I do have with him.

As for "sacrifice", I'm sacrificing each and every day. I'm sacrificing precious time with my child to contribute to the financial well-being of my family because it's the only answer. It's a most painful sacrifice and being judged only makes it worse!

I'm with you, I wish we as mothers could support each other, not judege and point fingers.

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Jill Davis
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11:14 AM delete

Amen, Sister!

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Laura
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9:28 PM delete

I just wanted to chime in and say that I loved reading this post and the subsequent comments. I already feel judged and scorned in life and I don't have any kids yet. God is good, and that's all I know. May He bless your walk together. :)

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