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 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 into 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 to 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.