Moms in the Middle
Whether a mom works outside the home by choice, necessity, or a combination of both, it is difficult to find a good balance between work and home. Author Nancy Wolgemuth helps us see what the Bible says to help us prioritize. Dr. Meg Meeker and Tracy Lane offers some practical tips for how to achieve balance.
About the Guest
- Are you in a race to see who can be a better mom? Dr. Meg Meeker feels that many mothers today have lost their joy due to the pressure they feel to keep up with other moms.
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Whether a mom works outside the home by choice or necessity, it is difficult to find a good balance between work and home. Nancy Wolgemuth, Dr. Meg Meeker and Tracy Lane offer insights and tips.
Michelle: There seems to be a debate today among Christian moms: “To work or not to work?”—well, we all know that moms work; but working inside the home or outside the home. That debate can get rather heated. For Tracy Lane, there’s a deeper question at play.
Tracy: The Christian culture doesn’t really give us liberty to talk about how to do that well. It’s either: “You’re not supposed to do it,”—or you’re so far over on the other side—“You’re not supposed to worry about it anymore.” What about us moms in the middle?—who still feel called to do it, and we still feel a little bit nervous if we’re going to pull it off and honor God with prioritizing our home.
Michelle: We’re going to give some help to moms in the middle today. We’ll talk about Christian moms working outside the home on this edition of FamilyLife This Week.
Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. I think we can all agree that all work matters to God—work in the home and work in the marketplace—it’s in Genesis 2 that Adam is called to work in the Garden, and that’s a good thing. It’s this weekend our minds go to all of the work that moms do because, after all, it’s Mother’s Day weekend.
Awhile back, I got together with several of my friends, one of which was young; and she was pregnant. She was being asked about whether or not she was going to be staying home after she had the baby. She softly replied, “Well, I’m going back to work; I’m needed there.” An older lady made the comment to her, “Oh, you just take your time. I think that you’ll find that you’re needed more at home.” The discussion kind of turned sour after that. I think we can all agree that that discussion can be polarizing.
To help us look at this discussion, I’m turning to my friend and colleague, Tracy Lane. Tracy is wife to Matt and mom to Audrey and Annie. She’s also a working mom; she is a writer, here, at FamilyLife®. Welcome, Tracy.
Tracy: Thank you; I’m glad to be here with you.
Michelle: I am, too; because I so appreciate your viewpoint, especially of this topic, being a working mom. When did you become a working mom?—was it right after you had your first little girl?
Tracy: Yes; I went to college and got an English degree, so I always expected to have a professional career. I also always expected to have children. I used to describe it to Matt, when we were engaged, that being a mom isn’t the only thing that I wanted to do when I grew up. I wanted to be a mom, and I also wanted to be a professional writer.
I was working, of course; we’d been married for a few years, and I had a career. We got pregnant, just like we planned to. We were overjoyed that we were expecting a baby, and then God started working on my heart. At that time, I was working at a job that required about 80 hours a week, and I loved what I did. But I was exhausted when I got home. I didn’t even have a lot of capacity when I got home to be a wife.
As this little baby was just barely starting to grow inside of me, the Lord started to say, “How are you going to have this capacity to mother?”
Michelle: Eighty hours a week?—that’s a lot! [Laughter]
Tracy: Right; “This is going to change your life, probably more than you are expecting right now.”
Michelle: When you’re talking about “working mom,” how are you defining that term?
Tracy: I think I’m using it here as a mom who also works outside of her home. Any mom listening to this knows that a mom’s job inside her home is very hard work. It’s also full-time, overtime, all the time—[Laughter]—no insurance or benefits. [Laughter]
Michelle: It’s every day, 24/7, no matter what.
Michelle: Do you feel like you chose working outside the home over nurturing children?
Tracy: It’s so hard; because a lot of times, in the Christian community, that’s how those ideas are juxtaposed. I really don’t think that’s a fair assessment; I don’t think it’s one or the other. I do know that, in our family, we made a change. When I was pregnant, working 80 hours a week, we started pursuing what God wanted us to do about parenting and my motherhood.
He [God] specifically called me to a career change that was hard for me to obey. He had me leave my job [of] 80 hours a week. I had accepted a promotion; I was about to double my income. At that same time, He’s working in my heart about prioritizing my motherhood. So we did; we followed God. We chose something that seemed hard to us, that seemed not like we would have planned it; but we felt like God was calling us to prioritize our family.
I stepped away from that; I didn’t know what I was going to. Of course, like He always does—like I said, I went to college to be a writer—that current job I had, when I got pregnant, I was not writing. God called me away from that to what I didn’t know, and He provided me a writing career. The reason that’s important is because He provided me a position that would allow me to pursue, professionally, what He created me to do; and also pursue, personally, what He was creating me to do with a little baby growing inside of me.
Michelle: I think it’s so important to hear all of our different journeys and all of our different stories, because life isn’t a formula. Sometimes your life looks a little different than someone else’s. You got married; you were working; you had a baby. You stayed working, but it looked different.
Michelle: Do you feel that you are a better mom because you are working outside the home?
Tracy: “Am I better mom because I work outside the home?” I think I’m the mom who I’m supposed to be, even though I work outside the home—or because I work outside the home—some days, it’s both. Some days, I need that time in the office. We have a very challenging situation with our second daughter, who has an illness that will never go away. Some days, at home, I feel discouraged by that: I can’t get her to take her medicine; I can’t change her diagnosis; I can’t really have what feels like a positive effect to me.
Then, the next day, when it’s my day in the office: I can start a blog post; I can finish a blog post; I can get feedback on a blogpost. It reminds me, in some ways, that I can still accomplish some of the things that God created me to do. I know, on those days at home, when I don’t feel like I am, that’s just a feeling; but it’s also nice to have an effective ministry outside of my home as well.
Michelle: Yes, most definitely. It sounds like God provided you with the perfect outlet and the perfect way to refocus your energies and [you are able] to realize that He has you in the life He has you in, and that’s exciting.
I want to talk about competition in mothering. Dr. Meg Meeker has been watching the trends among women for quite awhile; she’s been a pediatrician for 25 years. She says that women right now are pressed on every front, from social media presence to kids in multiple activities. Tracy, I want you to listen to what she has to say; and then we’ll have a discussion afterwards. Here’s Meg Meeker.
[Previous FamilyLife Today® Broadcast]
Meg: Many young moms now—and many older moms—really have lost their joy in being mothers. They don’t feel valued; they don’t feel that they’re doing a good enough job. It makes me very sad, because being a mother is such an incredible joy. A lot of the joy has been robbed from us. I think it’s because, honestly, of peer pressure. A lot of mothers feel so much peer pressure to be perfect moms/to produce perfect kids.
Mothers are a fiercely competitive lot. If you go into a new school, and you meet another mother in a class, the first thing you do is sort of size her up: “What neighborhood is she living in?” And of course, we look at her weight; [Laughter] we always do that! Once we get through that—and figure out, “Okay; are we in the same kind of shape?”—then, we move on to the kids: “What is her child like compared to my child? Is her child in the fast reading group? My child’s in the slow reading group.” We go on, and we go on, and we go on. That’s not what motherhood is all about. We do that because all our friends are doing that.
Mothers now, if they are at-home moms, they feel because they’re not out earning money that they need to be super-duper uber moms. They need to have perfect kids; their kids need to be in three extracurricular activities after school, not just one or two. We’ve gotten ourselves to a place that, no matter where we are in life—whether we’re full-time at-home moms, part-time moms, or working full-time outside the home—no matter what we’re doing, it’s never good enough. We’re never reaching the mark; we’re always falling short.
We’re not happy—and guess what?—if momma ain’t happy in the home, you’ve got a dad who isn’t happy, and a whole lot of kids, who aren’t happy. I see that all the time.
Michelle: Oh, ouch! Dr. Meg Meeker talking about the performance and the competition that’s going around with moms.
Recently, I was at a trade show for the radio industry. As a working woman, I was noticing the competition among the women. I don’t have a child that I can bring with me and [others] say: “Look at her hair! It’s so cute!” and “Her clothes look so nice!” “Oh, she does gymnastics!” That just hit me about the competition that is among moms these days. Do you feel that, Tracy?
Tracy: For sure; I think that is everywhere. It’s something that I’ve really been processing lately, too. Actually, just yesterday, I had this realization that: ”What if I’m the one, as the mom/as the woman of our house, who’s really inviting and self-imposing all this craziness? What if I’m the one?!” [Laughter]
Michelle: That’s kind of scary, so where did your thoughts go with that one?
Tracy: I think I’m the one! [Laughter]
Michelle: Oh, no.
Tracy: I was able to really look at: “What is it that’s causing this?” The Lord showed me the answer yesterday. It’s that this whole mother competition—this whole “Mom having to be the best…” “…the best…” “…the best…”—and provide perfection for her children. I feel that way, as a mom, when I think: “I’m the one in control of their lives,”—when “I’m the one who can create that perfection for them,”—when “I’m the one who can give them these three extracurricular activities, and that’s going to determine who they are.”
That’s wrong; I’m not the one: I didn’t think of them; I didn’t create them; I’m not the one who designed the long term and eternal purposes for them. Their perfection and their performance is not on my shoulders. That is something that God wants to work out. We put so much pressure on ourselves, as mom, so that our kids are more perfect than the neighbors’ kids.
God is actually working something out in our children—that He does use us as a tool—but it is not all on me. Thank goodness, because I can really make our home crazy when I feel like this. [Laughter]
Michelle: Just coming to that realization is almost freeing; it lifts the burden off of you. We are called to train our children; but it’s ultimately God, who takes it from there and does what He does with them, working in their hearts. It’s not that we have to sit there and create perfect little “us’s”/”mini me’s.”
Tracy: Yes; I realized that I’m not a very kind, and warm, and nurturing, attentive mother when I’m on this crazy perfection cycle. They need me—they don’t need the perfect set of school grades, reading group, after-school activities; they don’t need all that—but they do need an engaged mom, who’s not completely exhausted from trying to create this perfect little world for them.
Michelle: We need to take a break. Will you stick around through the break so that we can have a little more discussion about home, and working, and what that looks like?
Tracy: Sure; I look forward to talking more about it.
Michelle: Thanks. We’ll be back in two minutes with more discussion with Tracy Lane. Stay tuned.
[Radio Station Spot Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. Tracy Lane joins me in the studio today. We are talking about working moms: working in the home and working outside the home. There’s a passage in the Bible that many women have a problem with; it’s connected with Titus 2. There’s a verse in Titus 2 that goes like this: “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way that they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home.” I’m going to stop right there; because those words, “busy at home,” can sound a little harsh. Again, it can cause some controversy.
Nancy Wolgemuth recently spoke at a FamilyLife event. After her talk, a question came up about Titus 2 and, specifically, what we should be teaching our daughters about their future, about working, and keeping a home. Here’s Nancy.
[Excerpt from Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth Message]
Nancy: First of all, my understanding of this passage has grown over the years. I probably would’ve taught it a little differently 20 years ago—not probably—I would have. But as I’ve studied this, one of the things I came to realize is that, often, we were looking at this passage with our lens of 21st century culture. The culture in which this was written was totally different. This was not a matter of whether women can do this or that, inside or outside the home.
There are many different seasons of life. One of the things we talk about in this book is being alert to what the season is. I think what Paul was saying is—the timeless truth here is—“Don’t fumble the ball when it comes to your home. Don’t neglect your home to be doing whatever else you’re doing.” Some of you are in a season of life—I’m in a season of life—we don’t have children in our home. There are things/somebody was asking this yesterday, because I have this ministry—Revive Our Hearts®—“How do you do that, and live out this message?” Well, it looks different than if we had married in our 20s and been raising a family at this season—be tuned to what the season is—but even at this season, our home matters.
We reflect Christ through our home: it matters to my husband; it matters to our relationship. This isn’t a matter of who scrubs the countertops, who washes/cleans the bathrooms, who cooks the meals—those are practical applications; you can work those things out in your marriage—but it is saying, “Women, God has given us a unique and distinctive calling and privilege to care for our home.” [Applause]
What that looks like for you may look different for the woman sitting next to you. He’s saying, “Don’t neglect it, because so much of the gospel can be modeled.” It all goes back to the gospel: “How do we showcase the gospel in our homes?” Again, that doesn’t say who does what role, exactly, in terms of the chores; but he says, “Make sure you’re not neglecting to care for your home.” He’s also saying: “Be diligent; don’t be lazy,”—because, through the means of hard work, we’re able to redeem and beautify this world—which, again, makes the gospel believable and beautiful to others. [Applause]
Michelle: Nancy Wolgemuth; I just love her perspective on Titus 2. She was single for many years, and now she’s married. Her perspective leaves space for singles, for marrieds, for moms who work in the home, for moms who work outside the home. It’s all about, as she says, it’s about the gospel being on display in our home.
Tracy, how do you see the gospel on display in your home?
Tracy: The first thing that made me laugh about the Titus passage is: “Busy at home.” I’m like, “Who’s not busy at home?! [Laughter] If you’re a mom, you’re busy at home.”
That is a way the gospel’s lived out—because, especially as a mom, who works hard in the home and who has professional responsibilities outside the home—it takes me living out the gospel and living in the Holy Spirit’s strength every single day. I’m thankful that my kids get to see that, even when it means I don’t have it together that day, and I was yelling at them because they were going to make me late to that meeting, and I couldn’t get to the babysitter on time, or I forgot to wash something.
They’re seeing me come back to them and say, “I can’t do this today. Let’s all stop yelling at each other; let’s all stop crying. Let’s ask the Lord to give us the endurance and the energy to do what He is calling us to today.” That’s how we live out the gospel in our home. We make that first and foremost.
My husband and I both really put on display—I mean, we can’t hide it—when you have young kids, and you have a busy schedule, you can’t hide that things are messing up. You can’t hide when it’s not working; they know! For us to be able to say: “We can’t pull this off; and you’re not going to be able to pull life off on your own, either. Here’s what Mommy needs, and it’s the same thing that you need.” If we’re pursuing that together, our home is going to be centered on the gospel; and we’re going to live that out every day.
Michelle: And that’s so true. I love what you say about being centered in the gospel. That’s what I’m trying to have in my home. I’m single, so I have more time in the day/in the evenings when I’m not preparing for Bible study, or when I’m not volunteering someplace. I have more time than probably you do. Yet, I’ve walked into your home several times; and it’s clean and picked up! And the girls are happy. I’m like, “How do you balance all that when you’re working outside the home?”
Tracy: To be very practical, each person has their own responsibilities, which I think is good. The girls have to clean up their own space. We started that when they were very young. Each person has to help out; because they’re seeing their contribution, too. Our family, even our kids, don’t view my work outside the home as detrimental to our family. We view it as one of the ways mommy, as a person of this family, contributes to our family. We also view Audrey putting her clothes away as one of the ways that a person in our family contributes to this family. We have this common language: we each contribute in different ways, but its all for the growth of our family.
Michelle: Was there someone in your life, who mentored you and helped you understand how to be a mom, who’s working in the marketplace, and yet taking care of their home, and taking care of their children?
Tracy: It’s really neat because, like I said, that wasn’t the way my home was when I was raised. I knew that’s what God was calling me to—was to work outside the home—but I wasn’t sure how to make that work, because I hadn’t seen that modeled. But it’s really neat how it worked; because in the workplace, my boss—she is a working mom—she has been very transparent with me. She has four daughters, so we can totally connected over girl/mom life.
Tracy: She’s also much farther ahead than me; she’s an empty nester at this point. She’s been very open about the challenges that she’s faced as a working mom but, also, being very certain of the fact that God called her to continue her professional career, even after He gave her children. I’ve been able to watch her walk that out in some ways. I’ve also been able to listen to her. I think it was two years ago, on Mother’s Day, I texted her and told her “Happy Mother’s Day.” I added, “You’re the first mom I’ve seen do work excellently and home with excellence as well.”
I’m sure there are hundreds of other moms out there doing it. I think we don’t feel like we can talk about it. The Christian culture doesn’t really give us liberty to talk about how to do that well; it’s either: “You’re not supposed to do it,”—or you’re so far the other side—“You’re not supposed to worry about it anymore.” What about us moms in the middle?—who feel called to do it, and we still feel a little bit nervous if we’re going to pull it off and honor God with prioritizing our home. She was brave enough to say, “I’ve been there, and this is what I’ve done.” I think we need to be more open, as moms, who are doing that—wanting to honor God in both places—be willing to talk about, really, the practical pieces of pulling it off.
Michelle: Your leader/your boss at work has helped you/has mentored you. How can you encourage some of those moms, who are just starting out, and working in the marketplace, and are feeling totally overwhelmed with: “I can’t keep up with this”? Encourage them.
Tracy: Yes; I agree. It’s really hard to keep up with some days, but I think it’s worth it. Doing what God calls us to is always worth it. When we rely on Him to help us pull it off, it’s going to work. It doesn’t mean it’s always going to feel great; it doesn’t mean it’s always going to be easy, but it’s the right thing when we know we’re following Him and prioritizing well.
I will say, “Crock pot dinners save a working mom’s life.” [Laughter] If I’m not cooking a crock pot dinner, my family is eating a sandwich or something. I think that’s the other part of practical encouragement is: “Give yourself a little space.”
Michelle: That’s important.
Tracy: It’s very important. It’s hard for me to not compare myself to a friend, who brews her own kombucha at home. I don’t have the capacity to do that, and my family will be okay if they’re drinking store-bought apple juice or something in place of that.
Tracy: Be realistic with your expectations: prioritize the right things. Perfection is not the goal—honoring God and prioritizing your family is the goal—and those are very different.
Michelle: They are very different. God has called one of your friends to brew kombucha; but He’s called you to work outside the home, and also to raise these little girls, and then be a wife. Those are good things.
Tracy: Yes; I think that’s a key, too—is having the courage to follow what God is calling you to do—and not worrying what He’s called someone next to you, or your friend, or the mom down the road. We know God’s voice as believers. If we hear His voice, He’s the one to follow.
Michelle: Tracy, thank you so much for taking the time today to chat with me and to help us understand that we need to be following God, not what society is telling us, but where God is calling us. If that means into the marketplace, even when you have young children, that’s where we need to be. We need to be in His will, following Him. Thank you for joining me today.
Tracy: Thank you for having me.
Michelle: I just want to say, “Happy Mother’s Day” to all the moms and all the women out there, who influence the people around them. If you haven’t gotten your mom a card yet, I’d say give her a call and thank her for all that she has done for you.
Hey, next week, we’re going to talk with Jeff Kemp about some football and about being a dad. I hope you can join us for that. It should be a good conversation.
Hey, thanks for listening! I want to thank the co-founder of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and the president, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. A big “Thank you!” to our engineer today, Keith Lynch. Thanks to our producers, Phil Kraus and Marques Holt. Justin Adams is our mastering engineer, and Megan Martin is our production coordinator.
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