All Moms Are Working Moms
“What do you do during the day?” someone asks again. “Aren’t all your children in school?” Some ask in genuine curiosity, others with less kind motives. I ask it myself sometimes. It seems every year for the past 5 years, I come back to this same question: what to do this coming year when all of my kids are in school? I am a mother of 4 children ranging in age from 9-17. I left my job as an engineer when our oldest child was born. I truly loved being home with my kids in their baby, toddler and preschool years. The dilemma came for me when our youngest started all day kindergarten 5 years ago. Now what? I could go back to work, which was always an option. I loved my job, and who couldn’t use extra income? After praying about it, I didn’t, and don’t, feel called to get an outside job.
Perhaps I should preface my story with a plea for more grace in this area. The decision for a mom to work outside the home or stay at home can be a very sensitive topic, often with all sides feeling judged for what they decide. As one dear friend likes to say, “all moms are working moms.” Nothing could be more true! I don’t know any mothers, especially the ones who are following Jesus, who don’t give their all for their families each and every day, no matter where they work. My story, my decision, is just that - a snapshot of how I’ve chosen to respond to the Lord. It isn’t the whole story, or the only one, and it may not look like yours. But in a society that defines us by our titles, our productivity and our job descriptions, I believe it is an important story to tell. I hope it speaks a word of freedom to you if you are in that hard place of deciding how and where to best serve your family: You are not defined by your job title (or lack thereof). You are not defined by how you answer the question “What do you do during the day?”.
I have found that my time tends to be pretty full even without my kids at home during the day. My husband and I are intentional about what activities and sports we let our children participate in, but even with that, our lives and schedules can be full in the evening. Here is a recent nightly snapshot: flag football practice for our son, a soccer game for our daughter, a volleyball game for another daughter and a meeting for our church community. Whew! I get tired even typing that! What I have found through these last 5 years is that although my house is quiet during the day, I am able to get the errands and projects done to help keep our evenings more open, so that we can juggle the wonderful, blessed fullness of our life. I can try to get dinner ready, so that when kids come home, I can be fully present to them, listen to their day, or be available as a geometry tutor, 4th grade reading partner, latin flashcard quizzer, algebra teacher…etc.
You too may be asking, “But what do you do during the day while they’re at school?” Valid question. I try to get a routine going for myself, which helps me to stay on track and get things done. I know that I am accountable to the Lord for using my time well, so I try to use my daytime availability both to serve my family and others. First, I clean up my kitchen, which can be a bit of a bomb from 6 people making breakfast and 5 people packing lunches (my husband is the 5th, in case you are counting!) I tackle a load of laundry, get to my emails, and then look at my to do list for the day. I am in a good place in life to use my time not just to serve my family, but to serve others as well, so I volunteer at school, for a local organization that serves the poor, and for service within our church community. Being home without my children also gives me space to sometimes just help a friend in need who is moving, sick or otherwise. Even though I don’t go to work, I am often working during the day on planning some event, prepping for an upcoming meeting or getting my house ready to host an event or guests. I try to keep a healthy balance of outside service and my service to my family. There are always errands to be run, something to be cleaned, or a chore that needs doing, so I try to get to those as well. I would be remiss not to mention that I can get my kids to their dentist appointments, doctor visits, or orthodontist check ups, as well as getting to be home with my kids when they are sick or have days off of school. It gives me peace to know that I am home when my kids are home (they still appreciate and need a mom for more than just rides!) Being home also gives me time for some good self-care: things like exercise, reading, scripture study, a walk with a friend, or lunch with my husband just to name a few. I’ve had to let go of feeling guilty that I can do some of these things, because I have recognized the life that they bring to me, which then I can bring back into my home. I’ve also been convicted lately that I could set aside more time in my week for extra prayer and intercession. In short, there is plenty to do with my days. In fact, I generally can’t even get to all of it!
I have numerous dear friends who for a variety of reasons have needed to or wanted to go back to work. They are amazing women, who love and serve their families beautifully. I am in awe of how they manage their jobs, marriages, and families with grace. So, if you are a mom working outside the home, pat yourself on the back, you are pretty amazing! My goal with this piece is to hold up the flip side of the picture. Stay at home moms with children in school don’t make headlines today. Our society tends to define us by our titles and our places of employment, neither of which I have. While some might be puzzled why a woman wouldn’t return to the workplace, I am here to say that I have been, and continue to be, blessed by my time at home. My hope is that it is allowing me to bless my family and others in ways that would have been harder for me to do otherwise. In short, if you find the “all at school” stage upon you, I encourage you to be open to the blessings of stay at home life, even in this stage. I have found it more rewarding that I can say or could have imagined. God is good to me! Sisters, you are not defined by what you do, but by whom you serve. And if your hands and your heart seek to serve God and others before yourself, then you are living a life of more value and purpose than you will ever know.
“Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)
By Karen Groppel
Karen Groppel lives in West St. Paul, Minnesota. She and her husband David have four children ranging in age from 9 to 17. Karen and David are covenant members of the Community of Christ the Redeemer, a lay charismatic Catholic, covenant community in Saint Paul.