Being a mom is really hard. Working a full-time (or part-time) job while also being a mom is really hard too. Don’t misunderstand me; being a stay-at-home mom (SAHM) is crazy difficult too, though some of the challenges are different. Regardless of our situations, the world throws a lot of lies our way and we must discern what is true and what is not. While not a comprehensive list, these are some of the lies I have caught myself believing as a working mom (or sweet friends have caught me believing and have reminded me that I was buying into a lie). Often times, these lies are subtle and seemingly innocent, but each has major ramifications for the way we parent and the way we view motherhood, ourselves, and our kids.
Lie #1: It would be easier not to work outside of the home.
This is not true, moms. Though I’m not a SAHM, I do have the amazing privilege to work full-time over the nine months of the school year and then spend three glorious months at home in the summers with my babies. Except sometimes those three months are less than glorious. Don’t get me wrong, I love the time with my girls and am so thankful for the opportunity to spend more quality time with them. But wow, spending all day with tiny, needy humans is exhausting. (Yes, I know the SAHMs reading this are rolling their eyes and congratulating me for stating the obvious). Working outside the home is hard, working inside the home is hard, being a mom is HARD. Period. It’s a privilege and an honor and an exhausting, messy disaster to raise the next generation.
Lie #2: I would have more time to myself if I didn’t work outside of the home.
It’s a lie, mama. There will always be laundry or cleaning or volunteering for the PTO or coaching youth soccer. You may volunteer at your church or with Meals on Wheels, or take care of aging parents. Moms, whether they work outside the home or not, seem to always need more than 24 hours in a day. You will fill your time with something, and it’s not likely to be daytime t.v. or spa day, at least very often. I personally struggle a lot with feeling guilty when I spend time away from my kids in the evenings, whether it’s a date night with my husband, my women’s Bible study, or just a time set aside to catch up with a friend. These nights are relatively rare, but even so, I tend to believe that I wouldn’t struggle so much with this guilt if I were home with the kids all day. Perhaps I would feel less guilt about an evening away if I was home all day, but regardless of a mom’s job status, there are never enough hours in the day.
Lie #3: My SAHM friends are judging me.
Not true, mama friends. Most mamas are so busy trying to keep their kids fed, clothed, and alive that they don’t have time or energy to be judging everyone else. In fact, it’s a safe bet that many of your SAHM friends are in awe of your imperfect but valiant effort to balance work and family. You’re probably in awe of their ability to maintain sanity while interacting with small humans all.day.long. Let’s applaud one another, encourage one another, and spur one another on. One of the best ways to do this is to assume that our friends are just that, our friends, who love us and care for us and want us to succeed. Comparison is the thief of joy, mamas, so run hard and fast from the comparison game so that you can take joy in the momentous task that is raising kids.
Lie #4: My kids are influenced most by someone other than me.
This one is the biggie for me. I can usually deal with all of the rest, but if I allow myself to believe the lie that the biggest influence in my child’s life is someone other than her parents, I become filled with anxiety, guilt, and shame. The good news is that by far the greatest influence on a child is the kind of home he or she is raised in, regardless of the work status of the mother.
Almost all kids will tell about a famous athlete, a parent, or a grandparent when asked who their hero is, and those who choose the athlete are likely to grow out of that stage quickly! I’ve never heard a grown adult state that the person who influenced them most in life was their daycare teacher, and my husband, a middle school teacher, swears that it is uncanny how much kids act like their parents. My point is that, for better or worse, parents play the biggest role in influencing their child’s temperament, behavior, interests, and even struggles. Raising kids is a tremendous responsibility. I am in awe of the power parents have to mold, teach, and train the children living within their home. The hours of the day that moms have to spend with their children may be fewer if they work outside the home, but the importance of the role played in the hours they do interact is the same as it is for those who are at home full-time.
Lie #5: I would be a better employee if I didn’t have kids.
This one is tempting to believe, but it’s not true either. Before kids, you could likely work late or come in early, and you probably had more flexibility and perhaps more creativity because you weren’t sleep deprived. But parenting teaches some powerful lessons that translate to the world of employment. Multi-tasking is a really valuable skill, and moms are some of the best multitaskers I’ve ever known. Who else can simultaneously pack lunches, assist with math homework, pick up legos, and answer emails?! It’s also extremely motivating to have little people at home whose livelihood depends upon the job you have. Even though the schedule might be different and you may leave work more days in a panic because daycare called and your child is sick, there are other ways that parenting makes for better (or at least not worse) employees.
A word of encouragement
Let me say it again: being a mom is hard work. That is no excuse to throw our hands in the air, put on our yoga pants, and watch junk t.v. while our kids run wild, so please don’t hear me say that the difficulty of motherhood is an excuse to take on this incredibly important role with anything other than diligence and dedication. I work outside the home, but I can also be an active presence in my children’s lives. I can discipline them, train them to love others, help them learn important skills and values, and love them well. In order to raise kids to the best of our abilities, we must run from these lies that our culture sends our way. Find a friend (or better yet, several) who will shoot straight with you and tell you when you’re believing the lie. When you find these friends, keep them close. We’re in this battle together.