Having spent the past 8 years working full time outside of the home, I know all too well the feelings of “mom guilt”. Mom guilt reared it’s head almost daily for me. I felt it when I packed my son’s lunch with a Luncheable (for the 5th time that week), when I took him to piano lessons without having practiced, when I missed his first day of school every year to attend market, when I was late to his Christmas concert because of work, and so on. Some days I would hit a burst of energy and I’d feel like I’d finally conquered the mom guilt by checking all the to do’s off our list for the day. But that feeling of accomplishment was always quick to vanish with new clashing priorities and work just around the corner.
Unfortunately though, my mom guilt was not always just self-imposed. I felt the judgement externally from many other sources too: teachers, coaches, sometimes family, and most often stay at home moms. I’d meet someone new and upon asking her if she worked outside the home (and after having told her I owned my own business), she would tell me she stayed at home but then go on to tell me all about the dangers of letting someone else “raise” your children. She may even share how she and her husband just wouldn’t feel good about ignoring God’s call to motherhood had she worked. OUCH! What a slap in the face that always was. I often wondered…was she just being accidentally insensitive or was she telling me this perhaps out of her own feelings of insufficiency and self doubt? None the less, I can tell you that the mom guilt for working moms is real and the divide between the working mom and the stay at home mom can be wide, deep, and fairly impassable.
When I announced to the public that I was deciding to close my store, in an effort to focus on my family, I knew it would unleash a plethora of comments and opinions from both sides of the divide. And indeed, so many people applauded my decision to give up my career in order to stay at home with my children. I’d like to set the record straight though. I said I wanted to spend more time with my family, including my parents, and husband. And, I said I wanted to focus on them and give back to them as they have served me over the years while I pursued my vision for Flourish Boutique, but I did not actually say that I was 100% staying at home. You see, running Flourish was more than a typical full time job: I worked at least 60 hours a week, often beyond that into the wee hours of the night, while managing a team of 25 employees, and managing a growing family at home too. I found I could not do both things well and in the end the cost to my family was to much to bear. That being said, I enjoy working. My new plan is not exactly stay at home, and it’s not exactly work from home, and it’s not exactly part time working either. I will be doing a mix of family management (grocery shopping, cooking, taking care of the children, carpooling, etc), helping my husband in his business from home, blogging, and I am doing the interior design selections for my family’s fix and flip houses and spec homes. Call me Joanna Gaines 🙂 So, I will be incredibly busy and wearing many hats still. However, the change here is that my professional efforts will go to further one family business and my personal efforts will help manage our family finances, cooking, organization, etc. The result should be a more balanced life for our family, all the while still doing my best as a mom AND feeling creatively challenged and fulfilled.
With my store officially closed now, when I run into acquaintances, they often ask me how I am enjoying my “retirement” or “just staying at home with my kids”. OUCH! I get it now. Stay at home moms get the SAME judgement thrown at them, but just in reverse. I had no idea! Despite my plan to help with my husband’s marketing and design selections, people think I am staying at home now and so I have gotten to experience the reverse judgement. I often find myself defending my decision or plan, and explaining how I will be helping in the real estate business and new construction design, etc. But why?! When did taking care of a teething baby through the night, only to wake up tired and start all over again become “retirement”?! In my new role, even without regards to the work for my husband’s business, I have jumped right in to throwing my whole self into being the best wife and mom I can be: meal planning, library going, budgeting and more. I am applying all my talents and skills with just as much gusto and work in this new arena as I ever did at Flourish.
So, from a woman who has been on both sides of the divide, and more accurately lives somewhere in the middle now: I want to suggest a new term. I’d like you to meet “the make it work mom”. We are every where and we don’t fit into the cookie-cutter terms of working mom or stay at home mom. We are both. You might know her as someone who sells Norwex, Mary Kay, or Rodan & Fields. You might know her as the mom who also blogs. You might know her as the mom who makes time for volunteering. The bottom line though is, many of us moms, don’t fit so perfectly into these divided roles. And that’s ok: in fact it’s pretty darn awesome that we live in a world where we can be trucking our kids around town and checking our voicemail and inbox in the school parking lot. We have the freedom to chose how we spend our time, maximize our gifts, and bless our families. And, for some of you that freedom means that you do fall on one end of the spectrum or another. And that’s ok too. Can we, moms, agree to stop the judgement?! Can we agree to uplift each other instead?! Can we recognize that each mom is doing her best and each family’s circumstances are different? Can we agree that lots of mom’s fall in the middle and just make it work? Can we agree that it’s a blessing to live in a time and in a country where we as women can chose to work full time, part time, from home, or in the home?! Can we accept that in the course of our lives, moms will often go through various seasons: just as I have transitioned from owning my own business to this new make it work season… The bottom line is this: motherhood is special but it’s hard too. And the last thing we need to do is judge each other or imply the other women is making a mistake in how she spends her time. Give grace and love to your fellow mom: uplift her and tell her she’s a great mom. And give that same grace and love to your self. Stop judging your own choices so harshly, stop defending your role, and just be thankful for your freedom and your family. Make it work for you, and let that be enough.