Working moms around the world finally felt validated. A recent Facebook rant titled “Society to Working Moms,” humorously and openly listed the ridiculous expectations many women carry.
Much of it was quite relatable to a working mom like me. In fact, I’m writing this while on a three-hour airport layover, flying home from a week of traveling for my full-time job. My dear husband, who skillfully holds down the home front during my quarterly travels, has assured me multiple times that he and the girls are fine without me.
They are. He’s an attentive father, a hard-working professional himself, and a supportive partner to his working wife. And even though I love my career, and our daughters have always known a full-time working mama, my commitment to 40-plus hours per week does at times inhibit something in me that is instinctually womanly and motherly.
While we might relate to the Facebook rant’s laundry list of pressures women face, we need to acknowledge it’s more than just “society” talking to working moms. So I want to examine some of the pressures put on working moms that most of us (and maybe our husbands) have adopted.
Societal expectations pressure working moms to measure up to the wrong things. For instance, how society pressures us to be our best domestic selves while also working outside the home.
I don’t want this to be a “buy the store-bought cupcakes for goodness’ sake” post. (Even though you totally should. Kindergartners devour sweets in any form.) I’d rather say to all of us, your worth as a woman isn’t based on whether you did or didn’t make homemade treats for your child’s morning snack.
But it’s equally okay if you want to. We’re wired to nurture, to care, to connect, to serve. An easy way to do that is to bake the cake and embrace our child in her classroom.
To answer another cultural pressure on moms: It is totally fine if you don’t want to, need to, or ever work outside the home. You are fully capable of living a successful, significant life if your work as a woman is always inside your home. Motherhood has gotten a bad rap in our modern culture. There’s nothing glamorous about baby weight, dirty diapers, or postpartum depression. The obvious sacrifice that motherhood requires is steep and undeniable.
But motherhood is truly a gift God gives women. Taking time to enjoy the little lives God brought into our world is a privilege. Creating a safe, comfortable home for the next generation is quite the honor. Reject society’s pressure to feel like it’s a total overwhelming drag that you’ll never be able to pull off.
On the same note, I’d be remiss if I only answered the cultural expectations and didn’t answer the oft-implied religious expectations. As a mom, it is totally fine if you want or need to work outside the home. You are fully capable of living a successful, significant life as a Christian mother if your work is also in a professional setting.
It’s okay if you want to do that, too. We’re wired to want the best for our kids and then work to create opportunities for them in the plethora of strategic, multitasking ways God provides for us. One way to do that is enduring the work that funds their livelihood. Don’t accept a legalistic pressure to let working-mom guilt ruin the non-work days you do have with your children.
The Facebook user writes that mothers are “Santa Claus, the Easter bunny, the Tooth fairy, the birthday planner … the finder of lost things, the moderator of fights. Be fun. Be firm.” She writes women maintain the family schedule—birthday parties, swim lessons, music lessons. Teaching them to ride a bike and to “be a good human being. Eat vegetables. Wear sunscreen. Drink enough water.”
Do women really have to be all of this? Or do we just think we do? (And maybe even like our way of doing it?)
I’ll confess that I originally planned to make a homemade lasagna to put in the freezer for my absence at my family’s Friday night dinner. When my Tuesday work meeting lasted longer than expected, I didn’t have time. I was forced to opt for Trader Joe’s version instead.
And you know what? I was the only one who cared! My family had dinner. They were nourished and my hands had nothing to do with it.
With all of these imposed family pressures, I’ve learned to ask myself: “What will happen if I don’t?”
What if I don’t:
- enroll my 4-year-old in piano (like her homeschooled peers)
- make homemade lasagna
- rush the forgotten coat to school before outdoor recess (so the teacher doesn’t deem me an inept mother!)
- wash every piece of their dirty laundry myself
The answer is usually: nothing.
Sometimes the answer is even better than nothing. I’ll empower someone else in my family to do the things they’re capable of doing! I’ll train my kids to be responsible, hardworking, aware grownups. My husband will have the gift of bonding with our kids while they sit on the countertop stirring the side salad.
And I won’t feel so haggled over a million family tasks I was unnecessarily holding on to. I’m accepting the unpopular truth that my doing or not doing these tasks does not determine my success as a woman. Plus, my husband and kids are really good at doing all the things that need doing, too.
“Lose that baby weight and get back in shape, as quickly and as gracefully as possible. Make sure to get eight hours of sleep a night so you can work out, work, and care for your family. But also get up at 5am to work out.”
I have to admit that multiple mornings a week you’ll find me cycling at the local YMCA’s 6 a.m. class. Taking care of our bodies is absolutely worth it, but our primary worth as women isn’t in the way we look. Which I wrestle with too.
I feel better when I look better. Looking good is fine. Spending time meditating on my innate value as an image bearer of God is more helpful though. That’s going to keep me feeling good way longer than I can ever keep my body looking good. Because those wrinkles are coming. My 6-year-old recently told me I have “Mimi legs,” which I don’t think was intended as any kind of compliment.
Our fitness will fade. Say no to society’s pressure to equate your full ability to feel good about yourself with the number of times you made it to the gym this week. Equate it instead with who God says you are. So lighten up on yourself at 5 a.m. Come up with a routine that promotes healthy, not crazy.
It’s okay to talk about!
So many times when we’re struggling, we’re silent. Which is why I think the original post went viral. The Facebook user told it like it is about the pressures many of us feel. But if we leave it at only society’s message to working moms, we’re only talking about one side.
We can reclaim the truth of who God made women to be and the value He places on both work and motherhood. We can center our own work-life balance in His expectations instead and model practically pulling it off to a frazzled working world.
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