The Working Mom When Something’s Not Working: What Do We Do?

Having It All...As I was writing and researching the Life Ready Woman Bible Study, one of the truths that most impacted me was just how much we modern women have bought into the myth that we can have it all, all at the same time. So often, the reason we are stressed and torn is that we are trying to live up to that notion, when it is simply impossible to do.

This is true for all moms, but is especially important for moms who work outside the home (or, as I do, work from home) — especially those of us who don’t just “have a job” but feel a passion for it and invest a lot of energy into it. A working mom’s lack of margin means we have to be that much more intentional about the other areas of life. We have to be much more careful to structure our life in such a way that allows us to fulfill whatever workplace callings God has for us, and yet fulfill His even more vital callings to our husband and children. (That structure, our biblical design as women, and how we find God’s best for each of us as a unique individual, is the subject of the Life Ready Woman Bible Study.)

But then, as we walk out that design and that structure, we also have to be much more careful about looking for the warning signs that something is out of whack. Because there will almost certainly be times when we have to be courageous, and willing to take the scary step of pruning back the workplace branches that are strangling the family tree.

I got an email today from a woman struggling with one such choice, and I wanted to share this email and my response to her, because this could be any of us. (Her name has been changed.)

Hi Shaunti,
My name is Courtney, and I am from California. I am listening to your “Life Ready Woman” podcast from a recent (August 22, 2011) Focus on the Family broadcast. I have my resignation letter typed and ready to hand over today, resigning from a career that I have had for the past 12 years.

I am married and have two children. I also have struggled with a chronic physical and emotional illness for many years, earlier this year I was in inpatient treatment for my third time. I made a promise to my husband to step down to give myself the proper time and effort to make this recovery work. I have agreed to quit, written the letter, but I can’t do it.

So much fear and anxiety! Love my job but I love my family more… any advice would be greatly appreciated!!

Because of my own hectic schedule, and the sheer number of emails that come in to my website, I usually cannot respond personally or in depth. But this heart cry hit so close to home, I really wanted to encourage and yet challenge this sweet sister.

Here is my email back to her:

Courtney, I only have a moment, but I wanted to respond. I totally hear your heart. My encouragement to you is to be courageous, and not let the understandable joy in your job and desire to stay ‘in the mix’ at work, keep you from what is ultimately going to be God’s best for YOU.

One of the most important things to realize is that there is indeed a choice here that has to be made. One of the great myths we as women have succumbed to is that you can have it all, all at the same time. But that is simply not possible: someone or something is going suffer if we try, and right now from the little you have said, it sounds like what is suffering is you and possibly also your marriage and family.

So “doing nothing” is not an option, because doing nothing (i.e. trying to keep going the way you have been) is in fact a choice to prioritize your job over your health and your family. So answer these two questions:

1) You worry about losing the joy you have by doing your job, and understandably so — you are probably worried about what you will miss when you quit. But the question is: what regrets will you probably have if you STAY? Seriously, itemize them.

2) When it comes down to choice A (your health, marriage and family) over choice B (continuing to love your job) in a year’s time, are you EVER going to regret prioritizing your health, your marriage and your family, over your job?

On another note, I can’t tell you what a blessing it is to hear that you have a supportive husband who cares about you so much that he is not only “willing” to take on the sole support of the family but feels very strongly about it, out of love for you. That is a huge blessing to hear, and I hope you realize what a blessing you have in him.

Making choices like this is scary — especially since we don’t want to have to make these choices at all! But it’s important to realize that a choice for one thing is a choice against something else, and I’ll be praying today that God gives you such a wonderful vision for the choice you and your husband have decided upon, that you are able to be truly joyful about and embrace this next chapter in your life.

Her situation is certainly quite specific, but the underlying heart cry could apply to any woman with passion for her job. Have you ever been in this situation? Share your comments – and maybe Courtney, or others like her, will see them, and be encouraged.

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3 thoughts on “The Working Mom When Something’s Not Working: What Do We Do?

  1. I have 3 kids and was working full time at great organization, up until 8 months ago. As life got busier at home, my job responsibilities and opportunities at work increased too. I was burning the candle at both ends trying to excel at work and progress, while trying to be supermom at home. My story is so similar to Courtney’s. My health was being compromised and my emotions were so out of whack I felt I was failing my family. I, too, knew that something had to give. It was hard for me to make the choice to walk away
    from my job, but after a lot of prayer the message was clear. My family needed me and they needed me healthy. Not stressed and sick. This decision has been the best decision I’ve made in a long time. While I’m almost busier now, my family appreciates having me around and we don’t regret the decision at all. Instead of working on moving up the corporate ladder, I’m working on building up these 3 little lives I’m responsible for, and it’s the greatest job ever!!

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  2. Wow…a friend sent me this link today knowing my internal struggle with this very decision. I definitely found peace in knowing that I am not the only woman who is struggling to juggle everything and not succeeding. I desire to contribute through work and have a desire to succeed and am learning daily that God’s desire for me is the same, but in a different format.
    At the end, when I’m standing before my maker during the judgement, which we will all have, he is not going to ask me how I stewarded my job, but how I stewarded my relationship with my husband, my children and those he put in my path to witness to. I am slowly working my way towards resigning and moving into a new season. We’re taking it step-by-step. First, budgeting towards the new reality of a single income and secondly working to find healthy ways to focus my drive and ambition.
    I feel like I’m on a rollercoaster with ups and downs. Excitement one day to the idea of the freedom and fun I will be able to have with my 1 year old and then fear of who I may be letting down when I step down from a position that is understood was a platform for the next level. As long as I keep that kingdom perspective and know that I only have to live up to the Holy One’s expectations, then all that is left is to follow through with obedience.

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    • I am a very strong supporter of stay at home moms!!!
      I have friends that have had to work, and I understand certain situations. But I recently have been struggling with my oldest son about this very subject. He and his wife have a 6 month old baby and they think that its OK for her to go to work (part time) every day for 5 hours plus Saturdays. And I as grandma should jump at the chance to babysit my sweet granddaughter. She is oh so sweet and I adore her but I don’t want to be her mother, I want to be her grandmother. A lot of young people today think they have to have so much and they are not willing to sacrifice for the things and are eternal or moral. I stayed at home and raised my three children and get teary eyed today when I see young mothers setting in a restaurant with their children in the middle of the day. Oh how I miss those days!!! It was a joy and a privilege.
      I believe when you remove the mother from the home you remove your child’s protector. Being there for my children daily gave me an insight to their wellbeing and their emotional needs. They deserve it and that is how God designed it. There is a bond between a stay at home mom and her children that children of a work out of the home mom will never have the privilege to know. There are extreme circumstances and I believe God will help fill in the gaps in those situations. But when it is not necessary and there is a good man that is willing to support his family, that mom should be available daily for the needs of her family. There is no greater joy!!!
      Ps. When they start school, do as you will. But remember evenings, weekends, and summer times should be theirs!! God Bless You all

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