I’ve been a woman all my life (ha ha!). I’ve always had a job since age 16. Therefore I call myself a “working woman” and by that I mean no disrespect to stay at home moms. And I’ve birthed 4 children while maintaining my employment starting with my millennium baby in January 2000. I’ve worked full time, part time, flex time, ramp up / ramp down, work from home and all combinations in the corporate world. I think i have something to say about this topic. Well, a ton actually. But here is one of my most favorite posts I wrote all the way back in 2008 after the birth of my 4th. It’s meant to help new moms be prepared for new mom brain no matter how career minded you are. You’re normal. And it passes 🙂
I experienced these three situations with every single child, even number 4 when I knew well in advance these moments would arrive. I don’t think the tension of being a mom versus doing the work you love ever entirely goes away – just for seasons of good balance which I so treasure. So just consider this a heads up so you aren’t blindsided and making rash decisions 🙂
#1 Holding your newborn baby in your arms.
It does not matter how career driven and focused you are. That precious newborn that just sprung forth from your womb needs Y-O-U. 100%. 24/7. She is priority #1. In your hormone induced opinion, there is not a single other qualified person on the planet who is capable of caring for that child. Daddy gets his chance to bond of course. And depending on how close you are to your mom or sisters or girlfriends, they can be briefly entrusted with the care of your newborn so you can escape for a shower or a meal. Sometimes this feeling lasts for 2 days, sometimes it lasts for 2 weeks or 6 weeks or even longer. By the time I was due with my 4th child, I knew it was coming. I thought about my career and how to manage my job while on maternity leave and I fully expected to have that window of time where all I wanted to do was hold that baby and gaze lovingly upon her and watch her breath as if she needed my moral support for every single inhale………..and swear I’d never go back to work for another day until I ushered this little creation through her high school graduation. But this time, I saved myself the emotional agony of wrestling with the guilty working mom decision again. I told myself it was coming, to enjoy that time period where I was allowed to sit and do nothing but love on her. It would quickly pass. And before long, this little bundle of feathers would be rosy cheeked and vibrant and ‘durable’ enough that I’d entrust her to a caregiver. And even sooner, she’d be a strong-willed, temper-tantruming 3 year old whom I’d gladly handle over to the authorities for fear of ringing her little neck! To all those expectant moms out there…..you too will feel this way. It’s our hormonal natural animal instinct. My advice: don’t make any rash decisions with raging post-partum hormones
The #2 reason you swear to never work another day in your life: Not having trustworthy, reliable childcare
As soon as you discover that your childcare provider is throwing lunchables in front of your kids everyday for lunch instead of a well balanced meal with apples, cheese sticks and chicken soup. Or doesn’t greet you at the door with a smile. Or talks on the phone incessantly (in front of you!) in a depressing tone to her friends. Or doesn’t stand up for your child when he’s being picked on at the daycare center. Or, or, or, or. The list goes on and on. To some of you, these may not sound like big things. But for that delicately balanced teeter totter of guilt, it only takes one small item to tip things the other way. You are already sacrificing time away from your children for a career you feel called to or that is required to make ends meet. But never, under any circumstance, would you do that if it meant your children were not happy and satisfied during the day. I always say we’d move to a trailer in the boondocks before we’d sacrifice the well-being of our children. You’ll cancel the most important meeting under the sun (or call in a very difficult favor!) if you felt that the childcare situation was compromising your child’s well-being.
Reason #3: Having a sick child
Even if you have the best Mary Poppins nanny who stays at your house to watch your kids, when babies are sick, they want their mommies. My brain completely turns off as I snuggle in my feverish, stuffy nose, red cheeked babies from 6 am to 3 pm. I’ll let work know not to expect me and put all my focus on them until I feel they are safely out of the woods and I see nourishment and a smile cross their lips. This works for the occasional virus or flu bug. But there are children who are really, really sick with a life threatening illness. I experienced this with my first child who was born 10 weeks early and weighed only 3 pounds. He spent the first 30 days in the hospital and the first 6 months on various medications and monitors that taught me more about the medical field than I care to know. During that time, my full focus was on him and his well being. He recovered and so did I and went back to my career. But that is the one scenario in which I can’t imagine trying to be a working mom. Thank the Lord I have been blessed with healthy children and have not had to make this a consideration. But should that be the case, then I know exactly what will be required of me. At that point, my purpose in life becomes nurturing my babies. And for those moms out there who have done this, you are amazing and strong. More than you even know and way more than you are probably told. For those individuals and those seasons of our lives, I leave this thought which was shared with me by the attending physician when my son was born 10 weeks early: God does not give you more than you can handle!
So on this journey of being a working mom, there are peaks and valleys, bumps and turns, and lots of crossroads where we must re-evaluate our decision. Keep in mind these 3 scenarios and realize it is only for a season and make your decision when standing on a firm foundation and not in the midst of turmoil and change.
“There is no one busy in this world, it’s always about priorities. You will always find time for the things you feel important.”
People always say to me they don’t know how I do it. 4 (busy active years) kids in hockey, soccer, scouts (I’m the leader), full time job, fire schedule, church, life group, women’s group, etc. Oh yeah, and all of this at firefighter wife. This quote is the best answer I’ve seen in a long time to describe my life. I don’t feel busy. I feel full and blessed. Like everything is in my life because I want it there.
Because so many are always perplexed at our schedules, here on a Sunday night when all the planning happens, I wanted to give you a glimpse of my answer to this.
Always prioritized at the top….
– Time with my husband. Conversations with him at moments I know we can both be home, and awake and present, plus date nights at least once a month
– Activities with my kids – going to watch all their sports events, leading scouts, doing things one on one, having them help me around the house
– Prayer time / bible study
– 3 times a week fitness
– my work responsibilities are never neglected
Here is what doesn’t happen
– overworking my job – work smarter, not more
– long, lengthy meal prep / cooking / clean up (not something I enjoy anyhow so this feels more like a chore than a hobby)
– deep cleaning on a regular basis (happens more seasonally but we live in a little clutter)
– gardening / landscaping – we chose to not put in landscaping because we didn’t want to be consumed by yard work
– shopping – I rarely go out to the stores except seasonally when I have a good coupon and buy it all at once
– hovering over my kids – we work a lot on independence – getting dressed themselves, helping with laundry, responsibility for homework. The 6 year old comes up with some really creative and unique outfits and I don’t get all freaked out if she isn’t matchy-matchy.
– high maintenance hair styles / beauty routines – I have a 20 minute bed to ready routine and twice a week I skip showers when I work from home
– oh yeah, the commute. We chose to live 5-10 minutes from my office on purpose. Although in a big city, I almost never get on the freeway.
– TV – rare that I watch it and when I do it’s for family / husband time. Those hours instead go to my bible studies or reading, etc.
– I don’t volunteer at school. Ever. it’s not my gift really and there are lots of other moms in our community who do so. When I do it feels painful and uncomfortable so I chose to not have that in my high priority list.
You get the idea.
I don’t want you to read this and think I’m all self-righteous and perfect because that’s so far from the truth. I want you to read this and think about YOUR PRIORITIES and where you spend YOUR TIME. Is there something more you are missing in your life? What can you remove to make room for it? That’s the lesson here.
If you feel called to do something in your life, you will find a way to make it happen. Whether its go back to school or change jobs or have a baby or start a side job or just fit in more family time.
And as a fire wife, when you stop trying to fit your life into the prescribed M-F mold of the rest of the world, you’ll find a lot more freedom to build a life that works for YOU and your fire family.
So there’s a Sunday night soapbox for you 🙂 Be encouraged. Make changes one at a time. And be gentle with yourself in the process.
Before I even start, let me clarify. All mom’s work like mad. But in this case, I’m using the term “working moms” to refer to mom’s who work outside the home.
The worst day of the year for me is the first day of summer vacation. It’s not because I’m dreading having the kids home. But it’s because I have a job that takes me out of the home during the day Monday – Friday. And while my kids have been excitedly counting down to the first day of summer, it breaks my heart that I do not get to spend this time with them. This year my
kindergartener first grader (now) must have asked me 10 times “When is your last day mom?” and I choked back tears every time.
We all know that firefighters don’t do their job for the money. There’s a whole lot of love and passion that drives them to these careers with long hours and no juicy corporate bonuses. So many fire wives do work outside the home to supplement their income. I’m secretly jealous of all of you in the medical profession who have great options for going part time or contingent or working shifts that adapt more easily to your husband’s shift work. (Ok, the grass is always greener and I’m sure you all would highly debate me on that point…especially those working the night shift and on your feet the whole time!)
But my gifting is not in the medical field and the economy values my talents in corporate America. So off to work I go during my best, most alert and wide awake hours of the day for 5 days each week. I don’t hate it. It’s an amazing job with a great company, great people, enormous international exposure and travel opportunities and it matches with my brain and interpersonal skills. And let’s be grateful. There are many people out there who would LOVE to have my job. However, sometimes I feel like the best of me is given to my work and what’s left of me holds it together for my family every evening. And weekends are jam packed trying to make up for all the missed time in between. Give me a rainy weekend and a sunny Monday and it’s enough to send me swirling into the land of negativity.
Our culture was not always like this. It brings me comfort to hear the baby boomers acknowledge how expensive it is to raise a family these days requiring two incomes but also how difficult it is to have both parents working outside the home. And without my parents helping us with childcare on the times I need to travel for work, there is no way we could pull it off.
We constantly question “is it worth it?” Maybe we should just move into one of the $25,000, 1000 sq ft houses in the inner city where my husband works. Where my kids would not be safe playing in the yard. Where the 6 of us would be stacked on top of each other through the long Ohio winters. Where I’d be forced to home school my children for fear of their safety in the schools. Yeah. No. That’s not the answer.
But every year we do the Dave Ramsey snowball debt pay down math and we’re still waiting for that avalanche to attack our mortgage in a noticeable way, all the while closing in on the college years. Now here we are only 5 years from our oldest MOVING OUT OF OUR HOME and starting his own life in the (even more expensive) college season. And only 13 years away from potential retirement of my husband and realizing that is not really “the end” of our work life unless we plan to live in a cardboard box down by the river.
It could send me over the edge into a helpless depression if I let it. But I know that God’s got this. He’s providing every day. Our daily bread. One day at a time. And I need to trust Him with our future. My work is a blessing the enables so many wonderful things in our life. Our kids have access to so many schools and sports teams and cultural experiences because of it. And I have been so blessed in my corporate world with a company that has been flexible and accommodating through 4 pregnancies and the unpredictable world of sick children. I’ve been part time, full time, flex time, work from home time and everything in between. We are all being flexible to make it work. #sograteful
And it’s only because of my husband’s firefighter schedule that (we think) our kids are not seriously impacted by two working parents. They are not being raised in childcare and they get so much Daddy time during the weekdays and summertime when I’m working. And I am so proud when I hear my kids talk about the ways they want their careers to change the world (ok, let me pretend it’s because of my influence in global business that they’ve picked up on this. It makes me feel better). I’d be lying if I said my aching mothering instincts do not sometimes get jealous of the time Daddy gets with them. Especially when they are sick. Or have a special event. Or it’s the first day of summer break. Or they tell me I’m always on my iPhone. *sigh*
There is one major reason we can pull this off (better than we used to by the way). This is not an argument between myself and my husband. It’s a decision and trade off we made together (and constantly reassess in a healthy manner). My husband sacrificed advancements in the fire service to be home with the kids during the younger years. (Now that the youngest starts 1st grade he’s gearing up to get back into a 2nd job in the fire service). And I’ve sacrificed some Mommy time, especially these summer fun days, to help provide financially for our family. He supports my career. I don’t nitpick about tidy-ness and pinterest projects and the summer reading program I wished he’d do with the kids during the day. Our house is mostly a half decorated, cluttered disaster because we prioritize family over home improvement (but not over a sanitizing cleanse!). We have zero landscaping. That’s not where I want to spend my time at home. It’s incredibly freeing to let go of those standards of home decorating and organization that the world shows us today. And so far, our true friends have not abandoned us for these choices.
But sometimes, especially on the first day of summer, all that rationality goes out the window and I just want to cry and be home. Those are the moments reserved for a vacation day. A night where the smartphone stays in my purse and I pretend it doesn’t exist. A morning where I avoid planning an 8 am meeting so I can lounge a little longer in our PJs over breakfast before heading into the office.
Hats off to all the fire-wife-moms working outside the home this summer. Take it easy on yourself. Plan a lighter schedule (if possible) and come home to popsicle smiles and sticky kisses and make the most of it. Because they’ll be heading off to college before you know it!
My neighbor who does not work outside the house posted this photo for me yesterday of all our kids at the pool. I think we both envy each other equally some days 🙂