Today, I begin.
Today, I got up in the morning, got my kids going for school (with their father’s help, of course) in addition to getting myself ready to go to work. I kissed my 12-week old baby, his older brother and sisters goodbye and headed downtown for a full day’s work.
This time is a little different than the last four times. This time I am not ashamed. This time, I fully embrace that this is the path set out for me and I am walking on it with Christ.
I used to feel shame that our family was in this situation where I was forced to be employed outside the home. I felt ashamed because I borrowed so much money in student loans when I went to college. I was ashamed because we hadn’t managed our finances in such a way that we could make it work on my husband’s income.
When Craig and I learned NFP, we learned within context of the Church’s teachings on marriage and family life. The method encouraged ecological breastfeeding
(not the same as exclusive breastfeeding
) and attachment parenting
– two things, incidentally, I support wholeheartedly – but made no bones about the fact that the mothers belonged at home with the child. I don’t think it was the fault of any particular individual, couple or organization that I felt the shame in our circumstances. I only felt that way because I wanted to raise our family the way it was presented to us as we learned NFP, but had difficulty seeing how it could ever work, mostly in the financial realm.
I dipped into a pit of depression, maybe even despair, because I could not be home with my children. God called me to be a wife and mother, why would He still expect me to have a role outside of that in the business world? But no matter what we cut from the budget, no matter how many activities we eliminated, there was not enough money unless I was working. Our debts were too large and my income (as a business woman with a MBA) was too much to sacrifice.
We heard lots of well-meaning suggestions for how we could do it. We heard lots of reassurance that the sacrifices would be worth it and would return to us tenfold with holy, upright, well-behaved, trusting children. I began to feel like a failure. I contemplated confessing my “sin” of going to work and leaving my children each day. I don’t remember that I ever actually did that, but I do remember wondering if I should. That tells you the depths to which I had fallen.
Many of the blogs I read through our reversion were fairly traditional and conservative in nature, often written by SAHMs. I loved reading them (still do!!)…except when they wrote comments supporting their reasons for being at home. My fragile state took their words all too personally.
I don’t think they meant the words to sound the way they did in my head/ears and most likely, my state of mind caused me to hear the words much more harshly than intended. But when people wrote about “having their priorities straight” and referred lovingly to their children as “worth more than 8 hours a day at any workplace could ever be” it stung. As a WOTHM, I wondered if other women who were SAHM’s thought I viewed my 40 hour/week job as a priority higher than my children. I would like to reiterate, this is more a reflection of where I was emotionally and mentally to be thinking that way. We can all benefit, however, from viewing the words we say, read and write with lenses that can show us how they look and sound to other people in all walks of life.
I think whatever circumstances people are in, they need support and to be lifted up. I definitely don’t begrudge a SAHM the opportunity to hear that she’s doing “the most important work there is”. I don’t. Raising children IS most important work. Absolutely. That doesn’t mean that a WOTHM doesn’t see the same words and wonder just where she’s gone wrong in life that she must spend 40 hours/week away from her “most important work”.
Because many families we know and love are families with SAHM’s and/or home-schoolers, I am wary of ever calling myself a “working mother” because I am just as big a fan of saying that ALL mothers are “working mothers.”
Being at home raising children IS work just as it is work for me to drive downtown every day and ensure lots of money and lots of pieces of paper end up in the right spot all over the world.
So, that is why I use the WOTHM acronym.
I remember when the tide started to turn and I began to accept my role as a WOTHM. I read Pope John Paul II’s letter to women from 1995. Read the whole thing here
Thank you, women who are mothers! You have sheltered human beings within yourselves in a unique experience of joy and travail. This experience makes you become God’s own smile upon the newborn child, the one who guides your child’s first steps, who helps it to grow, and who is the anchor as the child makes its way along the journey of life.
Whether I stay at home with my children or I work outside the home…I AM A MOTHER! I needed this affirmation at a very delicate time. Even though I wasn’t at home caring for my children all day and all night, I was still their mother…I carried them in my womb and bore them. I experienced the joy and perhaps my trek into work every day is just one form of the “travail” I am blessed to experience.
Thank you, women who work! You are present and active in every area of life-social, economic, cultural, artistic and political. In this way you make an indispensable contribution to the growth of a culture which unites reason and feeling, to a model of life ever open to the sense of “mystery”, to the establishment of economic and political structures ever more worthy of humanity.
This is a thank you to every woman! Women who work at home raising our future generations full-time. Women who work in offices or hospitals or any other place of gainful employment are important, too! Work provides an opportunity for women to be Christian witness in the world. We should never shy away from it and we should appreciate the blessed opportunity.
Thank you, every woman, for the simple fact of being a woman! Through the insight which is so much a part of your womanhood you enrich the world’s understanding and help to make human relations more honest and authentic.
And here…it is reiterated by our Blessed John Paul II that every woman enriches the world’s understanding…whether it is through the raising of children in the home or completing a job well done away from home, women are important. Women bring to the table the ability to see with the heart.
Today, as I make my way back into the full-time working world, I am ever aware of the necessity of my work for my children. I thank God that I live in a country and a time when I am not “put out to pasture” simply because I am a woman with children, like many women of past generations. I thank God for my work,
even though I would much rather be home cuddling and caring for my newborn son.
I can see where I have had the opportunity to make a positive influence in the lives of others because I work outside the home. I think of all the people who have asked me, “Are you done?” referring to whether I will have more children. I thank God for the opportunity to share the joy of a large family with them. Perhaps a large family isn’t what God has planned for them. But my presence in the working world while raising a large family can be a silent witness to the old adage that all things are possible, with God.
I think of the times I have shared information on Natural Family Planning with inquiring women in the workplace. I don’t often try to persuade anyone to do it “my way” but I have found that women are often curious about “my way” and why I am comfortable with it or how I came to it. Ultimately, it’s silly to call this path “my way.”
So, I accept this path the Lord has laid out for me. I will attempt to be joyful in completing my meaningful work throughout the week. I will also attempt to maintain that joy for my children in the evenings and on the weekends, to experience the fullness of motherhood for those hours that are there for the taking. I will try to make every action of every day a joyful song of praise unto my Lord, who has blessed me far beyond measure with a good job, a loving and devoted husband, and five beautiful children.