Updated: Sep 3, 2019
As I sat waiting to be seen at my 6-week postpartum checkup with all three kids in tow, I overheard two young mamas chatting.
“I’m going back to work as soon as mine start school,” one said. “I don’t want to lose my education and training. But I also can’t stand the thought of not being there for everything right now. I just feel like by the time they’re school age, I’ll be ready.” The other mama agreed wholeheartedly, finding commonality and sharing those new mama feelings of being torn over motherhood and career.
I know that struggle so well. When you become a mother, it can feel like you’re losing out on a lot of opportunities. If you’re at home, it can feel like the world continues to pass you by while you’re elbow-deep in diapers. If you’re at work, it can feel like you’re missing your baby’s milestones.
I wanted to tell those mamas that their babies won’t stop needing them when they’re school age--and that’s by God’s beautiful design.
When my oldest, Emmalyn, was 8 weeks old, I went back to work and continued my full-time career in publishing. I felt constantly torn between loving my career and being there for my family. When my middle child, Harrison, was born, I backed off to part-time, thinking, Surely, this is it! The magic balance between motherhood and career. I’ve figured it out! Fast forward 3 years and school is upon us--just as those mamas in the doctor’s office said--and somehow I do not feel as if they need me less, but more. The dynamic of needs have simply changed.
The work of raising children never stops, as you know. Going to an office doesn’t remove you from all that’s happening with your loves, just as their going to school doesn’t remove their need for your guidance.
Having my foot currently in the newborn stage, the kindergarten stage, and the tween stage, I can enjoy it all with fresh perspective. Changing diapers every 20 minutes, little to no sleep, middle-of-the-night crying sessions, taking care of sick babies, potty training, being depended upon for every physical need… it’s all hard. “But this is not all I am calling you to,” is what I have felt the Spirit say.
As my babies grow, my work turns from diapers to the vital work of discipleship. I’m now helping them learn how to discern lies from truth, to experience Christ’s joy in daily tasks, to cultivate beauty in learning, relationships, and conversation. To understand their purpose in the world. This is all good work. Rocking babies is good work too, and leading them into the complex world of relationships and faith is the next step.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”
He is in the process of molding my kids--and me--and it takes a lifetime. I see now that my children will need me as much when they’re 12 and 17 as they do right now, and that’s okay. Because this work… it’s all important, and every part of it was created by our heavenly Father. The nurturing work of motherhood is not constrained to the baby years, when we so often feel that emphasis on choosing between career and family.
I wish I could tell you that I boldly and courageously said all of this to those new mamas in the waiting room that day. But I didn’t. Instead, I prayed for them, asking God in His grace and mercy to show them that motherhood may feel like losing out on opportunities in one realm or another, but it is actually an ongoing opportunity to raise disciples with the Father.