I recently had a conversation with a Working Mom that made me throw back to my days of working full-time outside the home. I remembered trying to juggle domestic responsibilities along with the guilt of having an infant (and then toddler) in day care. I pumped in the bathroom at work for 6 months, since that was the only room with a lock on the door. I often went well over the speed limit to pick my daughter up on time. I let her fall asleep on the couch so I could spend more time with her. I beat myself up every morning when I dropped her off and she cried woefully as I left, and then I stood outside the door, waiting for her to calm down before going to work. (Most mornings, I teared up when I got to my car.) I crunched numbers every week, created elaborate plans, tried to figure out ways to be able to quit work. I also envied the Stay-At-Home Moms that I knew, and wondered why it couldn't be me. I wasn't exactly defensive about my role as a Working Mom, since I felt compelled to stay home and couldn't, but anytime anyone made a comment that was even remotely negative about my child being in day care, I suddenly turned into a lion, claws drawn, ready to pounce.
Why was I so defensive?
I prayed for almost 3 years, and then the Lord opened all the right doors. I couldn't understand His timing, but He obviously had (and has) a plan. As a result, I've been the Stay-At-Home Mom that I envied ever since my youngest daughter was born. Now, my guilt centers on whether or not I'm ruining my children, since I'm the ever-present influence in their lives! That's a blog for another day, however. Back to my recent conversation with Working Mom: When faced with her own question of whether she should quit work to stay at home or not, she proceeded to become rather defensive of the fact that she enjoyed working and preferred to continue doing so.
Why was she so defensive?
I spent many hours pondering these questions, only to recollect something that I once read (I don't remember where): The defense mechanisms we use to protect ourselves usually provide clues to our own uncertainties or fears. My walls went up and my claws came out when others made comments about my child being in a day care. Why? Because I was uncertain that that was an optimal place for her to be, and I actually feared that it was harming her in some way (even though there were absolutely no signs of that, other than the usual illnesses associated with being in a day care facility). The Working Mom I was talking to became defensive of the fact that she enjoyed her work - perhaps because of guilt that may have been imposed on her by an individual or a media outlet in the past. Or, perhaps she feared that her enjoyment of work outside the home was in direct conflict with her nurturing instincts, and somehow made her a "bad" mother.
We get defensive when faced with our fears and uncertainties; when we are challenged to believe what very well could be an untruth about ourselves or our lives. These fears are not from God (who is love): "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love" (1 John 4:18). What we need to remember is that we're all in this together! It's not Working Mom versus Stay-At-Home Mom. We're ALL moms that need to support one another in the choices we have made, and we need to help guide one another if it becomes obvious that we are choosing the wrong vocation, whatever that may be (at home or outside the home). I am not better than you because I stay home with my kids. You are not better than me because you work to help provide monetarily for yours. God has different plans for each one of us, and we need to keep that in mind when our human natures drive us to place another mom under judgement for her vocation.
To continue in 1 John 4:19-21: "We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister." Let us keep this in mind as we strive to encourage one another along the journeys that God has planned for us, whether working at home or outside of it!