“It’s not that I don’t want to work, but I just miss my baby girl so much.”
“I spend more hours a day with my preschool students than I do with my own toddler. How can that be right?”
“I wish we could afford for me to stay home with the kids, but it’s my job that has the health benefits, not my husband’s.”
“When I went back to nursing after my son was born, I cried all the way to the hospital. Even though I left him with his daddy!”
As the owner of a small daycare, and as I’ve been involved with the women’s ministries at my church, I’ve heard these stories and more. These are the heart-cries of women who must be at work, but their hearts are at home.
They are strong mama-soldiers, helping their families in the financial battle to survive. They are not working for big houses and fancy cars, but to pay the bills and buy the groceries. They don’t mind working, but they do mind dropping their children off at the daycare or the babysitter’s. They do mind not having the time or energy to stay ahead of the laundry. They do mind missing ballgames and being too exhausted to stay awake during family movie night. They do mind feeling like they are always one step behind.
I get it. I understand. I’m in that boat too.
I wasn’t always here. About two and a half years ago, I lived in Australia, working a manageable thirty-two hours a week at a small Christian school. I taught kindergarten and drove a school bus. (Yes, I hit a few kangaroos on that bus route, but that’s another story!) My three sons attended the same school, riding on my bus, popping into my classroom during lunch and recess to say hello and tell me their latest test grade.
Life was busy, and I was working hard, but I still got to see my children throughout the day. It was the perfect job for a mama who felt called to be involved in ministry, but still be with her kids.
And then tragedy struck our family. I became a single mom, and my sons and I travelled back to my home country of America to begin a new life. The burden of supporting myself and my children was now on my shoulders.
God promised to supply all our needs, and He has. But He didn’t hand me a winning lottery ticket and tell me to go buy a house and pay my bills.
He provided a job and said, “Go to work.”
And so began my life as the owner of a small daycare. Five days a week, for ten hours a day, I care for 8-10 children by myself. You know that saying about the circus and the monkeys? Well, this IS my circus, and these ARE my monkeys!
I’m learning a lot on this journey. Like how to simultaneously change a diaper, break up a fight, and keep lunch from burning. And that children will eat almost any vegetable if you let them dip it in Ranch. (I’ve also learned how to use the bathroom really, REALLY fast. My sons tell me I can’t claim that as a super-power. I’m working on them.)
I am so very grateful for my little daycare. I thank God that I am able to work, pay my bills, and provide for myself and my sons.
But there are times when I struggle. I’ve had days when I’ve helped a child learn to walk, but missed my own son’s basketball game. Days when I’ve soothed fussy babies to sleep, but fell asleep on the couch while my son was talking to me. Days when I have longed to stay home and bake my kids’ favorite chocolate chip cookies, but instead went to work to pay their school bill.
I never wanted to work fifty hours a week, but I do.
I never wanted to be away from my kids for nearly eleven hours a day, but I am.
I never wanted my boys to have breakfast without me, pack their own lunches, and be responsible for a good portion of the household chores, but they are.
To all the tired mamas out there, I wish I could fix things for you. I wish I had a magic wand to wave away your exhaustion. I wish I could give you the perfect work-from-home job to supplement your family’s income, or magically turn your part-time hours into full-time pay. But I can’t do that.
What I can offer you is a little hope, a little relief. I’ve learned a few things on this journey that have helped me, and I want to pass them on to you. No, they won’t change your situation. But they might change your outlook, and sometimes…sometimes, that’s what we need the most.
Imagine the opposite, and have a grateful heart. On the days when I’m tempted to complain about my work (God, I can’t do this ONE MORE DAY!), it helps me to imagine what it would be like if I didn’t have this job. I wouldn’t be able to buy groceries or gas, pay the utilities, or buy Christmas and birthday presents. I most certainly wouldn’t be able to afford to have my boys in a Christian school, or own a home.
Capture and treasure the little moments with your children. I don’t get to see my boys throughout the day as I did in my previous job, but I do get to wake them up in the morning, have supper with them every night, and spend most evenings together. I appreciate these times like I never have before. At times, I simply watch my teenagers talking and laughing and goofing off, and just enjoy their presence.
Remember that everything is for a season. This feeling of exhaustion, of always being behind in the housework, of always having one more thing to do—this will not last forever. One day my children will be grown, and this crazy busyness of work, school, and sports will be over. When I think about it that way, I’m not too anxious to trade the busyness for some tranquility.
Take comfort in the knowledge that time never runs out in eternity. On the hardest days, the days when my heart aches because I’ve missed something special with my boys, this is what helps me the most. One day, in the not-to-distant-future, we will be home in heaven. And we will have all the time in the world with our cherished children and family. There will be no deadlines screaming for our attention, no to-do lists piling up, no laundry and cooking and cleaning to do. All earthly work will be finished, and all that will be left to do is enjoy Jesus and our loved ones. Keep looking up, hard-working mama! Our finish-line could be just around the next corner!
To all the working mothers out there reading this, know that you are not alone. God understands when your heart is longing to be at home and you must be at work. He knows how you struggle and how much you miss your children.
The next time you feel overwhelmed with these feelings, try making a list of reasons that you are grateful for your job. Add to that a list of the treasured moments you have had in the last week with your children—no matter how short those moments were. Remember that nothing lasts forever; this season in your life will pass just as other seasons do.
And most importantly, remember to keep looking forward to Heaven. Never again will we have to leave our loved ones, even for an eight-hour shift!