By Sandi Brown
When I was a little girl, I pictured myself being the type of mom who would homeschool her kids. I thought I would be the mom who would have warm, fresh-baked cookies ready for them when they came inside from playing. I imagined that I would play all day with them for the entire summer. My life would be carefree and I would be able to take my kids to the park or the mall anytime I wanted. I would be the ideal mom—one who was always there for them.
Reality Sets In
Once I got married and we adopted our three kids, reality quickly set in. Although I wanted all these things for my life and for my children, the bottom line was that in order to make our monthly bills, I had to work. Despite my dreams of being a stay-at-home mom, I stayed positive as I tried to be the best employee I could be.
I found pride in being able to help provide financially for our kids, since I had just started a new job that provided a much higher salary than I had ever earned. It made me ecstatic to take our kids on a trip to Disney World—a trip I knew wouldn’t have been possible without me working. I was thrilled to take them shopping to buy clothes that I knew we couldn’t afford without my job. Being a working mom had turned out to be a boost to our financial stability—something I had never even considered while daydreaming about being a stay-at-home mom.
But with that financial stability, I quickly found that this job also came with hours of overtime and travel time. At first, actually for several years, I embraced this new job and felt such a sense of accomplishment in providing for my family. I worked endless hours, trying to get as much done as I could in an effort to be an excellent and dependable employee. I felt like I was doing the right thing because I was helping to take care of my family.
Signs of a Problem
But as the months and years came and went, I started to notice that I was missing a lot of things. I was beginning to long after the thought of being more involved with my family. I counted the basketball games I was missing. I noticed the looks my kids gave me when I sat out the couch in the evening with my laptop, giving them only partial attention when they tried to talk to me. Even the simplicity of taking my kids to the dentist or doctor became something I desired to do!
Life seemed to be passing me by while I watched from the sidelines. But how could I change now? I had become so attached to my job that I didn’t know how to function without working all the time.
As I began to ask God what to do, he immediately showed me that my job had become more important to me than my family. The reality of that shocked me. I could never love my job more than my family! How could that be true?
God continued to reveal the truth to me as I saw that even though I did love my family enough to provide financially for them, my job had become the focus of my life. My job was the thing I nurtured. My job was the thing that was constantly on my mind as I desired to be a star employee.
My mind went back to the Scripture that I had held onto during the years before we adopted our children: “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him” (Psalm 127:3).
In all the years we prayed so fervently for children, I had held onto the promise that children were a gift, a blessing from God. And now that he had blessed us with three wonderful children, I realized that I had forgotten what a blessing they truly were. It didn’t matter how much money I made. The important thing was nurturing my relationship with God and with my family.
Is It Wrong to Work?
So after this revelation about my mixed-up priorities, I wondered if I should just up and quit my job so that I could focus on my family. I contemplated whether or not I should even have a job. I know a lot of mothers who don’t work, even though their families struggle financially. I wondered if that should be me.
But as I sought the Lord for an answer, I felt him distinctly directing me to stay in my job. The job itself wasn’t wrong. Instead it was my attitude and focus toward the job that were the problems. The job was just a job. It was never intended to be the focus of my life.
I do believe that God has called some mothers to stay at home and other mothers to work outside the home. A mom can truly be the mom God intended her to be either way.
Finding the Balance
Being a working mom can make it difficult to find the right balance between all your responsibilities. However, finding that right balance is crucial to being a successful mother, whether you are working or not. God needs to be the focus of our lives, but our spouses and families should come next—not our jobs.
Making sure our jobs don’t come before our families sometimes takes a lot of work. It might mean saying no to overtime hours. It might mean shutting off the computer, even if you have more work to do. It might mean spending time with your children even if your mind is stressed out about a work situation.
God taught me that I needed to find the healthy balance between work and home by being present in my kids’ lives. What that meant was that I needed to be there for them when they needed me. And that didn’t mean half listening while I plugged away at work on my laptop. Instead I needed to truly invest time in my kids’ lives, time that wasn’t clouded by work or anything else that got in the way. I needed to take an active role, being the godly example that they needed to see in a mother.
Being present in their lives meant setting priorities. It meant not working overtime hours. It meant changing the whole way my life had been. I started leaving my work at work. I started to be the best mom I could be instead of just the best employee I could be.
Being present in their lives more importantly meant making God the sole focus of my life. Focusing on him, in turn, brought our whole family’s focus to him. As Matthew 6:33 says: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
In other words, if we seek God first and make him the head of our lives and our households, everything else will fall into place!
Sandi Brown is a freelance writer from Tomah, Wisconsin.
Grace for Stepmothers
Whose Kids are These? Rediscovering Love and Laughter as a Step-Mom
by Karon Phillips Goodman
(Barbour Publishing, 2009)
The Smart Stepmom: Practical Steps to Help You Thrive
by Ron L. Deal and Laura Petherbridge
(Bethany House, 2009)