Let me start by saying I am incredibly blessed to have an employer who genuinely cares about me and my family. I had a very hard time going back to work after twelve weeks of maternity leave. I went back gradually, one day the first week, two days the next week, and so on. Nonetheless, after the first two months, I knew I was on the fast track to burnout from a career I truly loved before having a baby. I wasn't keeping up at work because I was constantly thinking about Finn, which made me extremely inefficient at the office. I also didn't feel like I was keeping up at home. My husband worked nights and weekends and I worked weekdays, so we had very little family time, it was either him and Finn or me and Finn. Laundry and dishes were out of control, I hadn't dusted since Finn was born, and I was pretty sure the level of disorganization in our home qualified me for some sort of HGTV organizational special. Anyone who saw our house during this time would tell you it was not that messy, and it wasn't, but my own misconceptions about how much I should have been able to do were clouding my view.
We debated for weeks on what we should do. Was this God telling us that I needed to be at home? Should I quit my job? Thanks to Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University we are on an intense debt payoff plan and the bottom line is that we need my income in order to stay on track. We believe we are honoring God by learning to handle money His way, so we decided I needed to have an honest conversation with my employer. They were incredibly understanding and generously allowed me to take one day of PTO each week for a month to sort through this new phase of life. It allowed us to figure out ways to maximize our time together and prioritize commitments in order to make this new life as parents work. So, for the working moms out there who feel torn between work and home, the following list are things that have helped me during this season:
- Find a group of women who want to do a freezer exchange group
The group I am currently a part of has 7 women. We each pick a meal to prepare and freeze and we make 8 of them. We get together once a month and exchange the meals and recipes. We go home with a week's worth of meals and we have an extra set that we donate to a family in need. Although the meals are wonderful, my favorite part of this has turned out to be the couple of hours that we spend with each other exchanging stories and having coffee.
- Take a bath with your baby
I regret not making skin-to-skin time more of a priority while I was on maternity leave, so this has been a great way to bond with Finn. Plus, now that he is mobile, this is a way to interact with him in a confined space, rather than just constantly chasing him around.
- Lean on your friends who are stay-at-home moms
Most of my friends who have kids are stay-at-home moms and I realized pretty quickly that I was starting to resent them. LEAN ON THEM. My experience has been that these women understand more than anyone else how hard it is to leave your kids. They have also been tremendously helpful when daycare is closed and we are in a pinch. Arrange a trade-off system, if you need a random daycare rescue, offer a date night in exchange. God has placed each of us where we are for a reason. Cherish the mission field you've been given and support the women in your life, being a mom is hard work!
- Connect with other working moms
With the help of a pastor, we formed a small group specifically for working moms. We meet every other week and we are currently doing a wonderful study by Nicole Unice called, She's Got Issues. The forming of this group showed me a simple truth that rocked my world… There are other moms at my church who are working outside of the home and making it work for their families. These women have shown me that each of us is built uniquely and we each desire different things out of this stage of life, and it is ok to not all want the same thing! When I feel overwhelmed, they remind me that I am where I am for a specific reason.
- When you ask for help, be specific
Figure out what household tasks you are ok with someone else doing (I know I don't like other people cleaning my bathrooms). If someone offers to help, pull that list out. I also started asking them ahead of time if they would mind if I took twenty minutes to _____________ before they left (fill in the blank: shower, clean the bathroom, empty the dishwasher). That way I didn't have to ask face-to-face, which I always felt incredibly awkward about, and they weren't caught off guard.
- Have a space where you can detach from the chaos
As you maybe gathered, I like to have a clean house. I often find myself feeling sad when Sunday night rolls around because I didn't spend much time interacting with Finn, instead I spent all weekend cleaning. When I am overwhelmed with the amount of stuff that needs to be done around the house I take Finn into his room, we shut the door, and we play. If I can't see the dishes and laundry, I am able to really enjoy the time I have with him. I make it a priority to do this at least once every weekend for at least an hour. No phone, no computer, just me and Finn.
The reason why I work is constantly changing, but in the months after maternity leave, it was a sheer motivation to be debt free. God is shifting that motivation in new ways each and every day and two months ago I didn't think that was possible. Someday maybe he will have me at home full-time, but for now I am right where He wants me. If you can relate to feeling torn between work and home and have other ideas, please share, and keep praying!
"Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord
rather than for people." Colossians 3:23-24