Mamas, Be Encouraged
Here's an image of both of my children looking like they are having the time of their lives at an Auburn Volleyball game. During every time out, these two get out of the bleachers and join the cheerleaders in "Bodda Getta" and battle for the t-shirt toss.
I think my kids would give a home volleyball game experience a 10/10. They get popcorn, they hang out with Aubie, and sneak sips of Gatorade out of the coolers on the bench. However, any working mom knows that we don't always feel support from our little ones when we need to do our jobs. What this picture doesn't show is the crying fit that took place that morning from both of my children asking me to not go to work for the 7th Sunday in a row. It also doesn't show my exhausted husband sitting a couple of rows up in the bleachers who had them both by himself all day before coming to the game.
If I am honest, I have never considered quitting working all together, but I have certainly considered the life of a nine-to-five. If I am honest again, I would never consider the nine-to-five if I didn't have children at home. I like working and being busy, and I have spent many years wondering if that was wrong. I heard other moms talk about their guilt from working. I certainly felt guilt about not eating dinner with by family or tucking the kids in at night, but I didn't feel guilty about having a job. I had worked really hard to even make myself marketable to earn a job after my two year hiatus during Josh's recovery. I was thankful to work again; it was a big benchmark in our lives as civilians. Of course I wanted to be around my children, but I also very much wanted to be in college athletics. I felt guilty for not feeling guilty. I went back and forth with thoughts like "Am I just a workaholic and don't know it? Because even if this job didn't work out, I would try to get another one. Even if we were millionaires I would still want a job." then I would think "How am I going to get these years back? These kids are not going to be little forever. Am I going to be okay with myself when they are teenagers and they don't have time for me?" Finally, I thought, "maybe I should pray about this."
Here's what I learned...
1. Mom guilt stems from feeling like you should mom like someone else. I had mom guilt when I dropped my kids off at daycare and saw that it was "silly sock day" but Harper didn't have hers on because I was out of town for two days and didn't see the reminder on the sign out sheet. I also felt it because my schedule could not compare to the schedule I had growing up. I lived in a home where my mom came home at the same time every day for the 18 years I lived there. I cannot remember a single time where my mom was out of town and I was left at home with my dad. My parents worked a very predictable schedule and our lives as children only got outside of those boundaries when we started playing sports. Feeling my week go a million miles an hour faster than they did when I was a kid made me question myself too. Was this too stressful? Do my kids feel like I am never around? Does Josh feel like a single parent? Working parents, this is normal. Living, working, and parenting your way is not always going to be right, but you will never get it right by looking at someone else's way and trying to make it your own.
2. Kids are resilient. I already knew this just by my experience with having a baby in an amputee/war wound focused hospital, but my whole family was victim to that situation. There's added pressure when it comes to having a job because the ripple effect stems from my choices rather than my circumstances. The truth, though, is that young children don't sit there and think about their long lost parents the nine hours they are at work or even over the couple of days they are gone for work trips. They really are fine, and as long as they are fine, you are fine. Do they notice your absence? Of course, and it might even make them cry every now and then, but the gift of God is that these kiddos have no concept of time. They just see us come in the door and allow us to pick up where we left off.
3. I want my children to see me working, not because I'm some kind of activist, but because I want them to understand the world around them. When I was in high school, I told everyone that I was going to college to get a teaching degree. I didn't pursue teaching because I was particularly drawn to it, but because I simply didn't know about other things. I work in sports. Sports is an industry that welcomes all kinds of non-former athletes and non-coaches. I want my children to understand that that is how many industries work. Getting a degree in accounting might earn them a job in the fashion industry, in the NFL, or at a local bakery. I want my kids to see that every career path is a multi-faceted operation with lots of options. If they see my role in collegiate sports is not the typical coaching role, maybe they will be encouraged to find their role in whatever sparks their interest with an understanding that there are several layers to making an organization or idea great. I hope it's their ministry as my job is for me. I want to teach them how to love something even though not every responsibility and expectation is fun. I think the most important life lesson is not "do what makes you happy" but more about getting behind something that you can help grow and experience growth at the same time.
4. I want them to see the hours. I do not expect my children to play or even enjoy sports like their parents do. But the one important lesson I want them both to understand is the time commitment it takes to be great. If they want to do something for leisure, then they will probably commit as much time as life allows. If they want to do something for the opportunities it could bring to their futures, then they need to see what I never saw-- 18-21 year old girls in a field of play that can honestly say "I give 11 months of my year to this." Sometimes, kids don't succeed because they just don't know what they are up against. Same thing happens to adults looking for a job. Even if a look into college sports helped them decide early that path is not for either one of them, that will save us all a lot of heartache and stress.
Moms, just let these kids in! It's important for them to understand that you aren't just a mom! I have always asked if I can bring my kids to work/practice and I hope one day they will want to join me on road trips too. Let them see the impact you make outside of your home!