I held my -year-old daughter in my arms, stroking her hair and kissing the top of her head. She wiped the tears from her eyes, sniffled, and buried herself deeper into my chest. We held each other for a long time.
“I’m sorry, baby,” I had said.
That’s really all I could say. Well, I said other things, trying to explain why it was necessary and such, but I knew that whatever I said didn’t really matter. At the time she just needed me to hold her.
“What if we stop asking for so many toys in the store that we don’t need? Would that help?” She asked.
My heart broke at her comment, so sweet, so naive, and I also felt burdened by Mommy Guilt.
I had not always worked full time, and that was probably part of the problem. Since she had been 9-months-old I had worked only part-time. Desiring to be a mother more than anything we had made the changes to make part-time work a possibility for me. It involved my husband working overtime, me picking up something I could work on the side from home, and not indulging in frivolous things. We were a family that believed in a mindset of the husband being the primary breadwinner, and we carried that model out for a successful six years. So my eldest had gotten used to having me around more. My younger children seemed to be adjusting well, but my oldest had been very emotional about me going to work the past month or so.
“I wish you didn’t have to go to work,” she would exclaim!
It tore my heart open.
That’s the thing, you know. Moms have this unique parenting desire to be everything for their children. We want to be the present mom, but also the one that can shower them with presents! And although we know time is more important than anything, that doesn’t change the reality of bills or necessities. I had been a “mostly” stay-at-home mom for six or seven years, but then circumstances had required a change. After much prayerful consideration and discussion I re-entered the full-time workforce, and though I found my vocation as a nurse extremely rewarding and satisfying, the challenges of being a working mom were huge.
I wanted to be everything my children needed me to be.
This morning as I was thinking about it I felt the Lord impress this to my heart.
It’s not how much you work, but rather the quality of the time you are home.
I smiled immediately.
Things had certainly changed. Before, when I stayed at home more than I worked outside the home, I was often frazzled and short-tempered. My mindset and reactions to life had changed. I used to strive to be this perfect, homeschooling mom. I kept the house tidy, made homemade meals every night, worked a small business from home (that took up a lot of my time and energy), and still spent quiet time with the Lord. I got my girls involved in classes and sports, went to Bible Study, and made an extra effort to be attractive for my spouse (even though he found me gorgeous, regardless). I was just always trying. Always trying to be everything to everyone. I was stressed to the max!
Many times over the past year (since I went back to work full-time), I’ve told my husband, “I work less now than I ever did before!”
And it was true. My work hours (outside the home) had increased, but my endless, pointless striving, spinning on a hamster wheel of perceived self-expectations had slowed.
I stopped trying to be the perfect working mom and instead simply enjoyed being a mom.
I let go of the things that weren’t important so I could focus on the things that were.
Now when I was home I was relaxed and enjoyed every moment with my spouse and children. My husband and I didn’t have to try and carve out time alone since he wasn’t working 60-hour-weeks anymore. We could parent together, we could minimize our schedule, reduce debt. I could lighten up, let go of what other people thought, and realize life didn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.
It was a simple matter of quality over quantity, and the fact was I was a more present mom than I had ever been before. My mind wasn’t elsewhere when I was home. I wasn’t rushing to the next thing, trying to obtain some sort of greatness with my side gigs or reach some great, unachievable level of parenting. I was trusting God more, being patient, not flustered, and enjoying watching my children grow.
Sometimes moms have to work, and that’s okay. I would rather work out of the home a day or two more out of the week than be angry and harried the entire time I’m home. You can still work outside of the home and be a present mom! There are some women who spend every waking moment in the home. Their physical body is there, but their mind is in Facebook, or their heart out with their friends. Years down the road my daughters won’t remember so much how many days a week mom worked as they will the memories of the great times we spent together. They’ll remember the parks, hiking, the beach. They’ll remember the travel, the games, the campfire stories. They’ll remember how mom smiled, laughed, held dad’s hand, and never said “hurry up” once.
Sometimes women are made to feel guilty for working outside the home, but I think our only regret should be not enjoying the time we’re there.