Much like we all tend to do, I spent my growing up years building a picture of what my life should look like when I grew up.
One of those pictures of my grown-up years definitely didn’t include me being a working mom. Nope. It took actually being a grown up and experiencing all of the unexpected experiences that come with living to bring me to where I currently find myself.
I thought I had a pretty good handle on what it looked like to be a mother coming into it. I’d watched my mom do it and do it well. Then I grew up and became one. I wasn’t shocked by the actual work that came with it, nor was I amazed at how rewarding being a parent is. What has been crazy for me to comprehend is how much like a never-ending experiment being a grown up is. As a child, I looked to my parents to know the answers to everything I had questions about. Now that I’m the one in that role, I understand more and more each day that it takes a lot of prayer and ad-libbing to make it through the days. It also takes living life on purpose.
I haven’t always done the best job of that in my mothering. There have been times I’ve felt like I was drowning in isolation. I’ve floundered with how to handle discipline issues or the best way to educate my kids in their early years. All the while, I held onto one part of my ideal picture of being a good mother, and I could find comfort in the fact that, while I might not be doing everything right, at least I was staying home with them, and that had to count for something. That meant I wasn’t failing at everything. (I didn’t see other moms who didn’t stay home as failures. It was just the picture I’d built for myself as ideal. In my mind, it had to be my forever calling because it was what I’d always pictured myself doing for forever.)
Meanwhile, a great many experiences began changing me and my perspective of what it meant for me to be a good mother. For the longest time, I had a neat little package answer of why I couldn’t be a working mom, but then the wrapping began to rip.
I began to realize that what was truly best for my family wouldn’t always look the same. I had proof of this in many other areas, so I finally allowed myself to accept it in this one as well. It was time for a new season. My husband was working himself ragged and we rarely got to see him while the kids and I were together constantly with no breaks from each other. I had been allowed the amazing gift of being there for all of my kids’ milestones, but their dad was missing a lot of them. I’d tried every work-at-home job I could find, but none of us enjoyed it when I did. It was time for me to step outside of my comfort zone and work part time.
I pushed aside the guilty feelings that come with being a mom, for by now I knew, no matter what “kind” of mom I was, I would always fight those guilty feelings, and I started substitute teaching on my husband’s days off from fire fighting. There have been days I’ve bemoaned all that I must be missing by being away from my family, but each day when I come home, I realize that my kids don’t look at me any differently. They don’t see me as less of a mother. I’m still the same mama they love and need, but now I’m able to offer them a different set of lessons.
I was able to see some of those lessons in action the other day when I took them to the park after I got home from work. I smiled to myself on the way to the park at the memory of thoughts I had before I was working. I would take them to the same park and think, “If I were working, I’d be missing out on chances like this.” I have now proved that this sentiment was simply not true. As we ran around the playground, I watched how much more independent we have all become since I let go of this notion and proved myself incorrect.
The reality is, my working has made me value the time I have with my kids that much more. I spent years building a foundation when I was with them all of the time, but now we get to start building upon what we started. I can stand back and watch them push limits I used to cautiously hold their hand through. As a bonus, they’ve learned to hold each other’s hand through the changes, too.
I have a leg to stand on when I tell my son to be brave and try new things because I’ve been brave enough to do the same.
As they grow, I can tell them to take care in what they allow to define them because I’ve begun the work of letting go of all of my worth and identity being wrapped up in them.
When they face seasons of transition in their own lives, I can say, “I know it’s scary and exciting, but growth never happens without purposefully changing the way you do things from time to time. And of course, I’m here for you as you take the risk ”
I’m thankful to have gotten to a place in my life where I can be at peace with being a mom without throwing a label in front of it. It’s not about being a stay-at-home mom or a working mom, a boy mom or a girl mom, a mother of two or a mother seven. God has called me to be a mother to some incredibly priceless gifts, and the roles I will need to fill throughout the years of raising them will change as much as they do. Motherhood requires letting go of so much, but thankfully we never outgrow the hugs.
I have held off sharing this part of my story on here for a long while because I know that this topic stirs up all kinds of emotions in mothers. The last thing I want to do is place negative feelings in anyone’s heart, but now that I’ve had enough time to process my own experience, I believe it’s important to share my story. I look at it as only that. My story. It’s not necessarily what your story is meant to be, but I share it with the hope that you can apply the principles of living life on purpose and the importance of being open to change when change is what is best. That is how we all grow.
Blessings to you all!