Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Work Guilt

Starting here, Eric and I began having some serious conversations about where I'm going.  Through tears I didn't see coming and heaving sobs here and there, I told him that while I appreciate so much the opportunity I have to stay home, I miss work.

Really, really miss work.  The internal struggle had grown and expanded until it poured over my cheeks and down my face and I needed help carrying it.  So I shared the hardest thing I've had to say in years.  It was gut-wrenching.  Heart-ripping.  Disappointing.

I want to go back to work.

I'll miss the kids.  I love the kids and Eric so so so much, but I miss band kids.  I miss the lights going off in their eyes when they get it.  Or when they realize that I'm really ok with their mistake, freeing them to make another one.  Then another.  And another... over and over... until they conquer it.

Why is it so hard to admit that I want to go back to work?  I've wanted to be a band director since Miss Hopkins taught me to play a Flutophone when I was ten years old.  College was a means to an end.  Just let me teach.   Show me the hoops.  Tell me how high to jump, and I'll do it.

So what is the big deal about saying I want to go back to work?

It's part of the great mommy wars.  It's part of worrying too much about what people think and not what God made me to do.  And I don't think I'm alone.

We compare far too much.  I have several friends who are home and home schooling, and it works great for them and for their families.  I know plenty of moms who stay home while their kids are at school.  I know plenty of moms too who only stayed the six weeks for maternity leave, then went back to work.  They love their kids, they care for them, they provide for them.  Every one of them.

This is where it gets hard to me.  What happens when mama WANTS to work?  When mama feels compelled to participate in the kind of thing she used to do as far as work outside the home?  When the money isn't necessarily needed to survive, so she can't blame it on money?

I know so many who would say it's no big deal to blame it on the money, but I just can't.  It's not the truth for us.  For so many people it is the truth that work means enough food and clothing and shelter, and I get that.  There are so many moms who wish they could stay home, and I get that too.

I count these years as a great gift from my husband and the Lord.  They have not been easy.

What?  What could be easier than staying home?

I don't know why, folks.  But it was hard for me.  I love my kids, I love my family, but it's just not where I'm comfortable.  When I catch myself saying, truthfully, that I feel more comfortable and like I can work more efficiently in the band hall than I do at home, that means something.

Here's what it does not mean.

1. It does not mean that I don't like my kids.

2. It does not mean that I don't like my husband.

3. It does not mean that I am ungrateful for the providence that has kept us fed and safe these years.

4. It does not mean that I am a horrible mother.

5. It does not... and hear me here... it does NOT mean that I'm out of the will of God for my or my family's life.

6. It also does not mean I don't admire those of you who continue to stay home.  Quite the opposite.

Flip to Proverbs 31.  Or just click here. 

Look around.  Read through.  What do you see?  You see a lot about her dignity, caring, being benevolent, generous, doing the Lord's work and making her husband proud.  There is much about providing food, clothing, and even being crafty to a degree!  Keep looking.  See anything about her not using her God-given talents?  See anything about her not helping provide?

If you look closely, it's just the opposite.  There is even mention of her making things to sell, and making sure her merchandise is profitable.

So where does this idea come from?  Where is this fear of admitting that I'd like to do something other than mop, sweep, cook, launder, clean, and teach my children coming from?

There seems to be the idea among a lot of believing women that one should be home.  Simply home.  That our kids and our husbands have to be enough.  That anything more... the want of anything more... is merely selfish ambition.  It also doesn't say that you have to have a job or you're not being who God made you to be.

So let's cut this out, shall we?  Let's cut out the sidelong comments about each others' lives.   We Moms, if we're honest, have things we just aren't good at or just don't get done because we hate doing it.  There are ways we all fall short.  There are ways we could all be better wives and mothers.  There are also ways we all need encouragement.  And a place to go with those frustrations where we won't be judged.

Wives and moms shouldn't feel the need to re-enter the workforce because they miss doing a job they enjoyed, were good at, or worked hard to be trained for. We are all different.  God's will for my life, though it may look a lot different than your idea of what's right, is still his will for my life.  If we try and fail, we should be there for each other to support and help each other up, not to kick each other while we're down with careless "I told you so" comments.  If there are hard questions to be asked, they need to be chosen very carefully and prayerfully, and they have to come with love from people in a position to ask them.

If we're honest, not one of us can live up to that Proverbs 31 woman.  Not all the time.  Not every day.  Yes, she's crazy inspiring.  Yes, we may have flashes of wonderful that look a whole lot like her.  Let's admit it and share our struggles, open our arms, and share the life-giving gospel-grace with each other that we all so desperately need.

Let's drop the guilt trip together.  We have enough mommy guilt anyway, provided by our own hearts and expectations.  Can't we help each other more? So what if you work and I stay home.  We're still moms.  We need each other.

Thanks be to God for all the people who have encouraged, hugged, asked questions, and believed in what he can do through each other, without harshness or judgement.


  1. I've thought a lot about this issue as a new-working-mom. Part of our situation is about the money - but a lot of it is also about my desire to work. Like you - I worked hard for my education and credentials - and (on most days) I feel challenged and fulfilled by my work. If/when we have more kids, I may reevaluate the whole working-mom thing...but right now, I know that I am making a difference and I am where I need to be.
    (It reminds me of the scene in Chariots of Fire - where Eric Liddle says: "God made me for a purpose - for China. But he also made me fast - and when I run, I feel his pleasure.")
    You are a strong woman - and whether at home or at work - when you use your gifts, you glorify the Lord who gave them to you.

  2. Awww Crystal, I SO get this. While I have often felt God's will for me was not to work full-time, I also know I am meant to work part of the time. I have often wondered about those moms who stay home exclusively and are perfectly happy and fulfilled. I've wondered if there was something wrong with me. But like you I've had to look at what God is saying to ME and ME alone, despite the doubters on both sides. Right now tonight I am heading out to a meeting for our worship team at church with a newborn...feeling like I am crazy for wanting to join back with the team in a few months. Yet when I sing, I know what I was born to do...and I know (when my husband is in agreement), that God's grace is there. God gives us desires and passions for a reason, and yes, sometimes the timing is not right and the season is for another time, but not always. Sometimes the time is now. Praying God's wisdom for you!

  3. Thanks ladies! It's so good to know I'm not the only one. :-) We all tend to have our own boxes for God to work inside and we sometimes forget in the most basic ways that we don't even see or realize that we're doing just that... shoving God into a box and saying, "you can feel free to work here and in this way. Go ahead!" And I get so surprised and thrown off when his will looks like a curve ball. There's also a ton of cultural Christianity messing in this.


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