Thursday, April 8, 2010

To Mommies Who Don't Work Outside the Home: A Confession

Can I confess something to you? You intimidate me. A lot. I know that sounds crazy, but its true. When we talk, I'm usually feeling insecure and uncertain about me, my life, and my mothering. Let me explain.

I am a "working mom" (I put that in quotes, fully aware that the label doesn't work because all moms work their tails off). Although I'm not in a typical "job," per se, I am enrolled full-time in a doctoral program that requires me to be away from home five days a week, for anywhere from two to eight hours a day. The great thing about being in an academic environment is that there's a lot more flexibility when it comes to my hours, but at the end of the day, I have responsibilities to fulfill (if I want to pass and pick up my stipend check, anyway).

Thankfully, my husband has a job that allows him a lot of flexibility too. He could get another part-time job to supplement our income and give us more "creature comforts," but instead, he takes care of our son when I'm at school. This means that Ronnie is William's primary caregiver most mornings and afternoons. This is a really wonderful thing! I'm grateful that they have such a close relationship, as a result of their time together. And, I'm thrilled that William's dad, rather than someone outside our family, gets to be so involved.

Yet, often, I wonder. And these "wonderings" happen about every couple of weeks. That's where the insecurity and intimidation comes in. I wonder if I'm making the right choice. I wonder if its all going to be worth it. I wonder if I'm scarring my kid (soon to be "kids") for life. I love what I do. I love reading, studying, writing, and teaching. On the days when I am the most clear-headed and at peace with God, I know this is what God made me to do. When I am teaching or writing, I can feel God's pleasure. But... And, that's the kicker. The "but"...

I look at you, my non-working mommy friends and acquaintances, and I'm jealous of you. Really, I am. I long for an even semi-clean house (I can hear you laughing at this, even now), or to experience some point in time where there's not laundry piled up, or, even more importantly, to know what its like to walk William to the park and not be thinking about my next paper, presentation, reading assignment, whatever. Often, I see you with your kiddos and I wish I were living a less complicated life. That's not to say being a full-time mom at home isn't complicated in its own right. I know it is! But, it would be much less complicated than mothering and studying at the same time.

And so, on my really down days, the days when William is whiny and needy, and I have to leave him with Ronnie because I simply must write, I cry and feel terribly sorry for myself. This is silly, I know. I'm blessed beyond measure to be able to do what I do and get paid to do it! But, on those down days, I struggle to see the point. I feel like all the books and papers and teaching isn't worth it, after all. And, I doubt.

Even as I write this, though, the insecurity is coming back. You see, my fellow moms, I'm afraid of what you're going to say in response to this confession. I fear, especially from my fellow Christian mommies, that you're going to use my struggles as fodder to try to convince me that I'm not doing the right thing by being in school. Its happened to me a lot, actually.

In fact, I don't share these feelings with stay-at-home moms anymore because so many have responded with something like this: "Well, maybe this is God's way of telling you that you're making the wrong choice." And, the really tough responses are those that sound something like this: "Well, Emily, I think your struggle is just proof that it is God's intention for women to stay home with their kids. You should stop fighting that and accept God's best for you."

I respect my fellow Christian moms who think this way. But, at the end of the day, I'm convinced that this isn't the case for all women. In fact, I think its realistically unworkable for most women the world over. (But, that's another blog for another time.) And, maybe more importantly, when I'm in my "right mind," I'm convinced that its not the case for me. At least, not right now.

Yes, I struggle to keep up with my husband, my son, and my "domestic" life (for lack of a better term), and to keep up with my academic studies, too. But, I'm truly afraid to be honest about it, because I'm afraid that you'll discourage me, without meaning to. Often, I feel like I have to pretend to be super-woman, undaunted by stress and unfazed by a tough work schedule. Because if I show weakness, if I cry, if I say I miss my kid when I'm in class, you will think that means I'm wrong and should quit. And, if I'm really honest with you, I'm afraid that if you tell me that enough times, I might just do it--and I know that's a mistake.

So, all this is to say, when it comes to mothering and studying, I'm new at this whole thing and I still feel quite fragile. Some of you may find this silly and I guess that's OK. But, I wanted to be honest. I wanted my fellow moms who don't work outside the home to know how I really feel--what's really going on inside my head and heart. Thanks for listening.

And now I have to ask, even though it kills my pride, and even though I feel silly and stupid and weak doing so: Please be gentle with me. Please don't use my struggle against me. Thanks in advance.

8 comments:

Becky's Place said...

Just follow where God is leading, whether it be working outside the home or working in the home or not working. And be willing to turn and go the complete opposite direction if that's where God leads.

Honestly, the Stay at home mommies get the "same" feeling sometimes. When I tell people that I stay at home, they often act like I'm not doing enough to support my family (that is not on welfare) and that I should be working and not having so many kids, etc. There are times when I feel like all the women of today think women aren't worth anything if they don't work. But I know that God calls some to work and some to stay at home. Sometimes He calls us to go one way and then turn and go the other too. Just follow His leading and ignore all other doubts and fears.

Gina said...

Thank you for sharing this honest take on your experience as a mother. My daughter is very young, and I can already tell that motherhood, while an amazing blessing, is different than what I thought it would be! I wish that women felt as though they could be more honest with each other about the joys and challenges they face as mothers. I think we would find that we are not alone and that many other women feel just as we do.

In some ways, it sounds like you feel they same way about this as I do about not being able to nurse my daughter. Every now and then, a well intentioned women will say something to me about breastfeeding that really hurts my feelings. I hope that I am not that person for you. Instead, I hope that I can offer a little encouragement.

First, I would not assume that the feelings you're having necessarily mean that you should quit going to school and teaching. It sounds as though you know this is where God wants you. I wonder if your feelings simply reflect how seriously you view the importance of being a good mother?

We are all called to be followers of Jesus, but we are called to it in different ways. Some serve in the ministry, others are missionaries, teachers, doctors, work in construction, etc. Isn't it possible that the same can be true for mothers. It would be ridiculous to suggest that 1/2 the people in the world live exactly the same way.....as a "stay at home mom". I don't ever remember reading in the Bible that all mothers should stay at home in a 3 bedroom home in the suburbs and that Daddy should work Mon-Fri from 9:00-5:00. :)

I think it sounds like you and your husband and doing great things! Please keep posting honest, thought provoking blogs. I really enjoy reading them.

Christiane said...

Hi EMILY,

Your situation and the feelings that you describe took me back about thirty-plus years ago.
My husband was on a Mediterranean cruise for six months with the Navy, and I had two children, one with Down Syndrome (medical needs) and I was in the middle of a graduate program at the local university (only a master's in education).

Oh, Emily, the guilt. But you know something, it worked out. After going through many sitters, I found a nursing school at the local Catholic hospital where the students came and babysat for a reasonable fee. So many good things came together for the sake of my family, and I was able to complete my course work (it took six full years.)

Those gifts God gave you to develop are also for your family's good, Emily. You are not depriving your family by developing those wonderful gifts. In time, you will see this.
Be peaceful, 'all will be well'.

Christiane

Bob Cleveland said...

I'm not a mommy so you can delete my comment, if you wish, but I'd like to point out one thing.

It's not at all uncommon for someone, who has agreed to pay a price .. particularly on the "installment plan" .. for something, to feel "post-purchase cognitive dissonance".

Buyer's remorse. The time when you question whether what you ordered and got is worth all the monthly payments.

If it happens with cars and Plasma TV's, there's no reason it can't happen with education and career desires, too. I think you're going to need to trust the decision process you went through, and the leadership of God. Which could include affirmation of what you're doing, or changing your plans in light of the fact that God and circumstances changed the cost of the deal, so to speak.

Don't sweat it. You're making the right decisions.

Emily Hunter McGowin said...

Becky, Gina, and Christiane,

Thank you very much for your encouragement. I too want there to be more freedom among women (and moms especially) to share how they really feel. Its unfortunate that there's an implied mistrust among women sometimes. I guess that's one of the reasons I wrote this post. To be one who chooses transparency, even if its hard.

Bob,

No, you're not a mom, but I won't delete your post. :) Your thoughts are good and practical and wise. Thank you.

Tammie McAbee said...

Emily,
Can I confess something to you...You intimidate me a lot as well!! You are a wonderful, intellegent, godly woman, someone I have admired since I met you many years ago. I think we all question if we are making the right choice from time to time.
If you long for a semi-clean home you would still be longing if you are home full time. You know we have 5 children now and 4 of them I homeschool (Isaiah thinks he does with his pencil and paper)I tell Steven all the time "We are here 24/7 so I can never clean, somebody is always making a mess!" It has taken me many years to see it as beautiful living instead of a negative mess. I won't go into the laundry statement because if I have 5 loads I don't think there is any laundry to do LOL!
Seriously though I got a part time job a couple of months ago and part of me enjoyed it and part of me longed to be home. I am humbled by all the "working" moms that do that everyday and for longer than I was. (Even though I was schooling before I went to work.) I quess you can say I don't have much perserverance because Steven and I decided three weeks into it it wasn't working for us, especially is crazy schedule. And we (me) realized I couldn't do it all.
Don't beat yourself up stay at home moms don't do it all either even the ones that would show on the outside that they are. Some watch to much tv, on the phone or text to much or on the computer to much (of which I am guilty). We might be there physically but we are caught up in something else. If someone says their attention is never diverted then they are not truthful. They may not be the things I listed but it is something.
I know that you are an awesome mother because you are a great woman whoo seeks the Lord with all her heart. Be encouraged and stay strong God has gifted you.
Tammie
(please disregard all my run on sentences, bad grammar and punctuation, I have taught and graded enough English today didn't want to proof mine LOL)

ddflowers said...

Hey Emily,
Bold move... I like it. And great comments too. I am obviously not a mother... or a father (yet). But I would like to share some brief thoughts.

My wife and I both are very ambitious and independent. We have been married for 8 years and have waited on the children for several reasons. One of those reasons is NOT because we plan on slowing down in our lives to have them.

I plan to begin graduate study real soon and my wife is toyed with the idea as well. She is a choir teacher and is extremely busy. When I think about children... I ask myself, "How in the world are we going to raise a human being with the lives we have chosen to lead?" In some ways, I feel it is more than just "the life we have chosen"... it's who we are. We feel "God's pleasure" in our living. We trust the Lord will work it out.

I know things may change. We will certainly adjust. But that's life. I have worked with students for 10 years now and have observed parenting just as long... if not longer There is no "right way" to be a parent.

There are wrong ways no doubt. I believe we know the wrong ways are indeed "wrong" when we are selfish, careless, and unintentional in our lives and with the lives of children. That doesn't sound like you. There is something else at work.

I have seen the busy parents that ignore their kids and the "stay-at-home" parents that smother them. Do what's in your heart... for the Lord lives there. It's how you walk the path you choose.

I imagine that the Lord will oneday teach your children that mommie loved them very much and did the best she could.

And that's all any of us can expect.

Trisha said...

I am a mother. I have a full time job. I must lean not on my own understanding, but in all my ways acknowledge Him, for it is He who directs my path. Oh that we may lean fully on our Lord!

How you are caring for your family right now is right. Praying that God will continue to direct you on how to care for your family is right. Listening to His direction is right.

Chin up girl - I too feel the guilt, the insecurity, the indecision. But, ultimately, if our choices are set in prayer and God's truth, all is well.