Recently after mass I stopped and chatted with a friend as she was franticly redressing her herd of children with winter coats while they fussed and whined. Any mom in the north understands that wrestling match with tired, hungry kids. She looked up at me with a weary smile and told me that she was heading to work right after and as she walks out the door for her shift, she will be dancing and rejoicing. I laughed. I understood.
Now, some women may find her comment insulting to motherhood. Some may judge my friend as being a bad mom. (I assure you, she is top notch.) Some of you may think that the suffering we endure as mothers should be placed on the highest pedestal and to do anything to reduce it or relieve it is simply heretical and in opposition to the value and sanctity found in motherhood. I understand all of these views because I once held them.
I clung to these views early on in my parenthood. I couldn’t imagine what would motivate a woman to chose work over being home. I was plagued with guilt when I involved myself in anything that took me away from my daughter. But then things changed. I started teaching full time when my oldest was only 1 years old. For the benefit of my husband and the future of our family, I agreed to go to work. Those three years of teaching taught me much about the mercy God wants to extend to those women who have the privilege of being moms and the need to show compassion and support to any situation in which they find themselves.
Most of us find it easy to be understanding and “merciful” to the moms who, by no choice of their own, have to work, either full time or part time. We understand that circumstances come into our lives, like the death of a spouse or the loss of a husband’s job, that forces them to leave the home and entrust their dear children to someone else. We have compassion on those poor souls who struggle to leave their “real” calling for a lesser, second rate occupation.
But what about those women who chose to work? What about those mom who actually enjoy doing things that have nothing to do with their dear, dear children or wonderful husband? Is it wrong, or bad mothering, to enjoy stretching your brain, extending your talents, or serving others beyond the activities that directly relate to the family? Is is ok to actually find escape at times in leaving the home to go to work? I say NO!
Women are made as complete and singular beings. They have talents, enjoyments, responsibilities, and goals that are theirs alone. Of course, the challenge exists in balancing those elements of ourselves with the other holy calling of motherhood and/or being a wife. Sometimes, our individual identities are placed on hold for a season when other influences control our time and energy. However, those women who seem to have the opportunity to stretch their “non-mom” muscles, either by choice or not, should not be judged or degraded as less than quality mothers. We must remember that the totality of our motherhood and the end result of the years spent training, feeding, loving and instructing our families is not found in the perfection we hope to attain in every act or decision we make; but rather, it’s in the gift of ourselves, the complete self, to our loved ones. We can’t be a great mom to our kids unless they see the real, entire version of our self. They need to see that we have a life beyond them. They need to see us as an intelligent, inspired, creative, and multi-layered woman. And for some of us, work is part of that.
There is so much more to be said, but I will save it for a later time. I will only expose you to a little of my soap boxes at a time.