Recently, my favorite little duckling and I were on a neighborhood bike ride when we stopped to feed our duck friends at the pond. While enjoying one of our favorite mommy and me moments, we had the opportunity to welcome a new family to the neighborhood. As I conversed with this precious family from China, I discovered that the parents spoke better English than their children. When I revealed to them that I teach elementary school, they shared their story with me. They explained to me that while they have been working in the United States for the past eight years, their children have been living at home in China with Grandma and Grandpa. This year, their elementary aged children finally moved to the United States to live with Mommy and Daddy. Slowly but surely, they are learning English from their parents and teachers as they become familiar with their new “normal”… life in America… with their parents… for the first time in EIGHT YEARS.
This got me thinking about the whole “stay-at-home mom” verses “working mom” battle that my heart and mind fight often. This got me thinking about what “normal” really is. This got me thinking about my flawed, selfish, first-world “problems”. I’m just happy this got me thinking, because with these thoughts came adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication with God. Take heart, said the Lord, as He so creatively filled my cup on this afternoon bike ride.
I am a mother. I am a teacher. Therefore, I am a “working mother.” It’s funny because I’ve ALWAYS desired to be a mother, and for many years I desired to be a teacher, but growing up I never desired to be a mother and a teacher at the same time. As simple as this dream sounds, being a “stay-at-home mom” has always been the desire of my heart. Well let me tell you something… I’ve learned that labels are silly. I’ve also learned that what you want is not always an option at the present moment, but God can be at work in the next best option, and He can make it beautiful.
Our little family has a unique situation… one that on most days, I consider a blessing, while on some stressful-tagteaming-babyswap-frazzled-days I consider REALLY, REALLY, REALLY HARD. However, on all days, God provides and makes it work. After staying home with our newborn for five amazing months, I returned to teaching and my husband and I began our adventure of working opposite hours so our cherished daughter could have “stay-at-home parents” that both have full-time careers. Sometimes I really miss my husband at 3:30 when I high-five him in the parking lot as he passes off the little one and quickly jumps back in his truck. Sometimes I really miss my husband when I put our daughter to bed, just the two of us. Sometimes missing my husband is fun, because our time together is so treasured. I’ve learned to truly appreciate the incredible bond he has with our daughter. I learned that men can be nurturing, gentle, tender caregivers, just like us momma ducks. I’ve learned that time with your loved ones is not about quantity, but about quality.
I’ve learned that moms are… MOMS. It’s not a #stayathomemomlife. It’s not a #careermomlife. It’s not a #mykidsliveinChinawhileIworkinAmericalife. It’s just #momlife… or how about just #LIFE.
“Normal” is different for everyone, yet the same. The same trials. The same joys. The same unconditional love.
That pile of laundry that you have not been able to get to all week……….
I can’t get to mine either. It’s not a “stay-at-home mom” thing, it’s just a MOM thing.
That time your toddler decided the living room wall was his canvas……….
Yep, my toddler is just as destructive of an artist.
The fact that you actually found the time to take a shower BY YOURSELF today……….
We shared in that same victory, my friend.
The way your heart overflowed with joy when your baby took her first steps……….
Mine did too. Contrary to popular belief, us working parents are the ones raising our children, even if some days it takes a village.
Sometimes I let comments get under my skin. Sometimes I feel like I have to defend myself to the stay-at-home mom who made me feel inferior in the diaper aisle as she congratulated me on being able to “be mom again” with summer break approaching. Why thank you, but I am a mother seven days a week, twelve months of the year. Please don’t feel sorry for me.
Then I remember that I’m preaching to myself. I remember that I too am a flawed human being who judges other moms without realizing it. I too fit myself into little mom cookie cutters that only certain moms can fit in. Not to mention, I totally judged moms before I was a mom. (Surely I would do a better job parenting myself one day.)
…and just when my heart begins to feel heavy, I remember… I don’t need to defend myself to the mom I just met in the diaper aisle. I realize that perhaps her heart and mind are fighting that same “stay-at-home mom” verses “working mom” battle, but from the opposite side of the fence. I am reminded that God meets us where we are. He makes us beautiful when the world says we’re lacking. He is the perfect Father when we’re imperfect parents. He takes our not-so-ideal situations and gives us opportunities to serve Him and experience Him within them.
…so let’s stop with the labels for just a second.
Let’s remember that what’s right for me isn’t always right for the mom next door. Let’s remember that we’re not in a mommy war. Let’s remember that we all can relate to each other, somehow, so let’s just be transparent and show each other grace. Let’s remember that we all do what is right for our unique little families, whether it be working full-time, working part-time, working from home, making the home our work, or working far away from home in order to provide a better life for our children. Let’s also remember that some women are struggling with infertility, and our insensitive comments and prying questions can be really hurtful. Let’s remember to think before we speak, and speak less than we listen. Let’s remember to be sensitive, as Jesus was sensitive. Let’s pursue self-awareness, and contemplate how we affect others. Let’s offer counsel to those in need, but let’s do so with love and compassion.
It is a biblical command for a mother to love her children.
The rest is just your everyday “normal.”
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24