I was eight months pregnant with my first and waddling down to the front of the church for prayer. My husband was losing his job and all signs pointed to me doing the unthinkable: going back to work. The women I prayed with understood: “you want what’s best for her child, Father,” she prayed, “and what’s best is that this child has a mother at home.”
At my son’s eight week birthday, I went back to work.
It’s little wonder that year was so hard, why I struggled to pray and sleep and trust and pump and hope. If I believed that babies need their mothers at home and that the God who could fix any circumstance didn’t allow me to stay at home--something was going to break, and it was either going to be my faith or it was going to be my belief.
What Breaks First?
It took another six years for my belief to truly break. During that time I had two more children and, after my year as a full-time working mom, I became a stay at home mom, and then a work at home mom. I’ve had days where I knew they’d be better off at daycare, and I have days where I can’t imagine handing my precious gems off to somebody else again.
I used to wonder, when I left them, if they’d forget about me, if their sitter would have a deeper impact on them than I would, if working was really the right thing. Six years into motherhood, now I don’t they don’t forget you. They can’t forget, but I also understand the truth behind what a wise friend told me once: one of her children cried when she left her at daycare and one of her children couldn’t care less, but both hurt the same.
When It Goes Up In Flames...
What I have now? I have humility. That’s what you get when beliefs break and you start over again: you get humility. Despite promises from well-meaning friends that if we really wanted to, we could find a way to live on one income, despite so much self-doubt (have we really heard the Lord correctly? Did we mistake his voice?), what I have is a deep humility.
And sorrow. Now, I have sorrow. I look at a church stance I once believed in and I realize how incomplete it was. What children need isn’t a mom at home; what children need is a mother who loves them. What children need isn’t a one-size-fits-all version of “holy” motherhood; what children need is a mother who, like Mary, says, “Thy will be done.” However strange that will seems.
Now, we need a clearing of the air. We need to stop doubting each other’s motives. We need to stop suspecting each other of being selfish parents, of not sacrificing enough, of not being wired the right way, of being naive or enlightened. Kindness needs to enter this conversation. We need to stop shaking our heads at unbehaved children, saying, “well, he’s at daycare all day….”
I’ll Go First:
I am sorry I thought that if you didn’t stay home with your kids, you would harm them.
I was wrong.
I’m sorry other people have told you that working would hurt your kids. I’m sorry the church, without hearing your heart, told you working would hurt your kids. They were wrong.
I am sorry you’ve felt guilty about what the Lord’s led you to do. I’m sorry you felt judged and less-than for doing what you needed to do. I’m sorry for where your brothers and sisters in Christ have stolen your courage, instead of stirring it up. I’m sorry we’ve heaped extra burdens on you that you didn’t need to carry.
Even though staying at home is a privilege that most of this world cannot afford, I’m sorry you still hear comments from moms who choose to stay at home because they want to “be there” for their children. I’m sorry when you’ve heard a stay at home mom praised for her sacrifices--but nobody thought to praise you for yours. As if you don’t want to be there for the first steps and the after school talks, and as if your worth as a mother could be measured in simple time.
Praise Them All
I’m sorry you hear stay at home moms praised for “putting their children first” as if you’re not busy making sacrifice after sacrifice in your own career. As if you had a choice to work or not work and you didn’t care for your children like the other moms do.
I’m sorry we prioritized a “Christian” policy over your personal, mental wellbeing, as if your children were better off with a shell of a mom than with a healthy, cared for mom.
I’m sorry that we made you think that motherhood had to look like one specific thing even when you weren’t designed for that one specific thing. I’m sorry that we put you in a box.
If we can begin to recognize our egregious mistake, maybe we can begin to ease your burdens.
The truth is, we can’t afford to keep you in a box anymore; we need you to be the beautiful, magnificent story that God called you to be. In fact, even though it’s the church that’s made you feel wrong about how you mother, what it really needs in the biggest way is for you to do what God’s called you to do--nothing more and nothing less.
We Need You
We need your diverse talents and work callings and childhood plans. We need your blend of skin color and eye color and cultural background. Do you know each of us is called to the body of Christ for a purpose? You can’t be sold out for God if your church is telling you there’s only one way to be, and that how to be is more important than doing what God tells you to do. And when you’re doing what he’s called you to do, rivers of flowing water will pour right through you into us.
We need you. I need you.
I need my church body to be full of women from every walk of life:
women who are working, women who are staying home with kids, and women who are doing both or none of it. We need single women, too, with children and without children. We need widowed women and divorced women, female bosses and mentors and mothers and teachers and preachers--with babies and without.
Where To Now?
And we both need, now more than ever, is a community of Christians who hear God’s voice with you and invest in you and believe you when you talk. What you need is a community that rallies around you and lends you their courage and their shoulders and their strength so you can go be what Christ’s called you to be.
I hope we find it.
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