The following blog was inspired by Sheri Dew's new book,Worth the Wrestle.
I have been doing this mom thing for almost 22 years, which oddly enough was about the same time I graduated from college to embark on the world. Even so, I still ask myself regularly: Is balancing motherhood and a career worth the wrestle? Is there a way to find balance? Let’s be honest, there is no easy answer, but some days the answers come easier than others.
Last week was a long one. Late nights. Early mornings. Work deadlines. Mom deadlines. After I had gotten my older kids off to school I was having what my 5-year-old and I call “snuggle time” where we climb into bed, read books, practice letters, and watch what I hope is educational television for an hour or so before she goes to Kindergarten. I must have dozed off to sleep (those late nights and early mornings were catching up to me.)
I soon felt two little hands patting my cheeks and then little girl kisses smothering my forehead and cheeks. I opened my eyes to be eye-to-eye with my beautiful little daughter. “I’m so sorry I woke you, mom,” says her sweet voice. “You just looked so beautiful while you were sleeping, I couldn’t resist.” Aah. Joy. Balance. Love. It was the burst of energy I needed to make it through the week and the reminder as to why I do this whole mom and work-from-home thing.
As I mentioned, my oldest child will be 22 next month and my youngest is 5. Throw in the other four and I have six children within a 16-year time span. To say I have my fingers in a lot of pies would be an understatement. To still accomplish the task of mom, about 16 years ago I started working from home as a freelance writer. Deadlines loom large for me a whole lot. I have drink-in-the-best moments of both my mom job and work job on a daily basis. For that reason, I look for the poignant moments and try to capture them and write them down. That is a struggle some days because of time.
But the idea of working from home was not easy for me. Some days it still isn’t. It’s a wrestle. But I have learned much about myself through these years—myself as a mom, myself as a wife, myself as a daughter, and ultimately myself as a daughter of God. I have also learned that the wrestle is not with the world, it’s not with my husband, it’s not with my friends, colleagues or children—it’s one that is personal for me and my partnership with God in this journey of motherhood and life.
Growing up I always dreamed of having some big career—a career as a lawyer, an author, an advertising executive, something big where I would make loads and loads of money. I started an internship soon after graduation—my tiny baby boy was only four weeks old. It was so hard for me to leave him. I was crying all the time (a little postpartum perhaps) and I couldn’t find a balance. I soldiered on though. I received some blessings, felt answers to prayers and listened to conference talks where I had been promised an “abundant life,” which at the time in my mind equaled money. So I continued to work. The full-time path wasn’t going very well, but it was necessary.
My husband was finishing up his degree and my income was needed. I felt that leaving my babies was somehow betraying my role as a mother. I searched for answers—in personal prayer and the scriptures. One day my dad sat me down because he had sensed my frustration and had a heart-to-heart with me. He explained that everyone had a different path and that I needed to forgive myself for working. No one was disappointed with me, including God. He reassured me: sometimes women need to work in this world. I needed that from him. I needed permission from someone that I was okay.
After a few years, I was able to cut back to part time, but baby number three came quickly and I needed to stay home. I just couldn’t hack leaving my house to go to work while raising three tiny kids. But I felt like I was missing something in my life and we still needed a little more money to make the ends meet. I stressed. I prayed. I worried. I felt that I was doing all the things to be blessed enough that I shouldn’t have to work or want to work. But that wasn’t the answer that was happening for me. And then there was that “abundant life” blessing I had been waiting for.
Now don’t get me wrong—being a mom is everything to me. I love every part about it (well you know what I mean) but I needed something else for some reason. I counseled with my husband about it and we decided that I needed a way to grow personally. I prayed. I fasted. I wrestled. Soon I found a freelance reporter job at my local newspaper. I went to work—from home. Sometimes I had to go to meetings or on interviews, but most of my work was done in the walls of my home.
It was what I needed. But I know this is not the answer for everyone. People pray, fast, and do what I did find a different path. It took me a long time to realize that. The day I decided to stop judging others for their career choices and stop judging myself for mine was one of my best days. Also, the day I decided my main career was being a mom, and my writing life was a way to help our income and keep my creative juices flowing—well that was a good day too.
But that’s not to say there haven’t been bumps in the road! There are so many days when I think I should fire myself from my mom job. Days where I feel like I fail as a mother, housekeeper, wife, and writer pretty miserably.
Just before I got pregnant with my little Eliza (who we lovingly refer to as Bonus Baby) I was toying with the idea of working full time—leaving my house every day and going to work. I would soon have all my kids in school and so I could do this, right? Well, surprise! Bonus! The Lord had a different plan for me. In comes Bonus Baby. I would not be working full time because a new baby was on the way. I learned who really guides my life (not me.) I learned that working from home is my calling. It’s my gig and I LOVE IT. It’s not easy. I hold kids while I write, juggle phone calls, hide out in the bathroom to do interviews—I do pretty much all the crazy stuff to make it work. I really fly by the seat of my pants. But I thrive on it. About the time my Bonus Baby arrived, I discovered where my abundant life was too. It was right in front of my face. An abundant life doesn’t mean money—it means a full, happy life with ups and downs, trials and errors—the life I have.
Now that I have a kindergartner I do work more. I also have been blessed with a different work-from-home job that keeps me fulfilled in every way and I’m also able to keep this mom career. As a matter of fact, the two coincide quite nicely.
I’ve been surprised at the tender mercies that pop up in my life to make the two parts of my world coincide. I blogged about one of them a few weeks ago relating to a mother’s prayer, and the tender mercies it brought. (Read more about that here.) Is it a wrestle some days? Yes. Do I have days where I feel like I fail at all the things? Yes. Is my house pretty messy most of the time? Yes. Do I drink Dr. Pepper and eat chocolate some nights to stay awake when I have a deadline? Yes. But is it worth the wrestle? You better believe it!