I’m A Working Mom

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Tears rolled down his cheeks, his sad eyes pleading with me to stay. His little voice quivered when he begged, “A hug, Mommy” while his preschool teacher tried to restrain him. I squatted down. He latched his tiny fingers around my neck and wrapped his feet around my waist, willing me to stay. I tried to quietly plead with him as our eyes met but I realized it was going to have to be like ripping a band-aid off.

Then I loudly said, “You have to be a big boy now. Mommy has to get to work. I love you!”

I said it loudly because the teachers were watching and I felt like a horrible mom. I wanted to make sure they overheard that I have a place to be, that I have to work. I’m not just dropping my son off in a puddle of tears and screams because I want to. I have to.

I feel like I can’t just say, “I’m a mom” without the disclaimer, “I’m a working mom.”

It’s a scene that has repeated itself over and again. Like when I only have an hour to volunteer at the school. I rush in and read a book to the kids, hug my daughter and declare that my lunch break is over and I have to get back to work. I want to be that mom whose name I see on every PTO form and daily on the volunteer log. She is praised for her involvement and love for her children. I feel like the teachers need to know I would be there more if I could.

Or when the kids are eating popcorn chicken while we rush through the grocery store. I am juggling dinner and shopping because I have to get to a work event that evening. I imagine eyes on me, judging my choice of meals for the kids, judging my haste and my hurry. Did the cashier just roll her eyes at me? When she hands my kids a sticker, I wish she would hand me one too. “Working Mom,” it would say. I would wear it like a nametag, like a statement of my identity.

I justify my choices about the way I spend my time by labeling myself like there is a hierarchy of motherhood.

In my mind, stay-at-home moms are the top of the pyramid. If you homeschool, you are at the very pinnacle. I’m down at the bottom, looking up and if I am honest, it’s with a touch of jealousy. Okay, maybe resentment sometimes.

When I was a young mom I wanted to work and also do everything the stay-at-home moms did. I quickly learned, in the midst of panic attacks, I couldn’t do it all. I also learned that “mom” can’t be the only label that defines me. I still need to say “yes” to the things that give me life or I will never be a mom worth having at all.

So yeah, I’m a mom who works, but I still want to change the world. I’m still a writer, learner, leader, traveler, and friend. That’s always going to be who I am, but now there’s something else that follows me around. I carry my Mom Guilt around like a storm cloud I can’t shake.

It’s there when my incredible husband takes the kids to school on Friday mornings, so I can meet with a prayer partner. He gets them breakfast on Saturdays, so I can wake before the dawn to get half a work-day of writing in before the kids get dressed. He never makes me feel guilty for the dinners with my best friend or the writing conferences. He supports me in everything I do, but I still feel it.

The kids might whine a little when I leave for the gym. Their little pj-clad feet run to the door to meet me when I arrive home, not an ounce of resentment on their faces. But still …

There is this nagging ache in my gut every moment I choose to be away from them. I have to be away from them so much for work, when I choose to pursue other things, I heap guilt upon myself and imagine others judging me. I always wonder if I am doing enough, if I am enough for my family.

I’m trying to set down all this guilt—the ways I define myself that are limiting—and my imaginings of what others expect of me. At the end of the day, I cuddle with my babies and whisper prayers with them. As they drift off to sleep, I know they aren’t wishing for a stay-at-home mom. They just want me and all that I am.

So, when you see me running through the store next time, I will try to stop and smile at you. I know that you are doing your best, too. Perhaps you carry guilt too or maybe you even resent me because of the freedom I have to actually be with other adults a few hours a day!

We’re all in this together—this crazy life and all the roles we have to play in it. Motherhood is a role that defines many of us, but defies labels. I want to stop labeling myself so much and start loving this wonderful mom life more.

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Nicole T Walters
I am a writer who lives somewhere in the tension between wanderlust and rootedness.I currently make my home in Georgia with my husband and two children but have lived in and left parts of my heart in the Middle East and South Asia. I write to help people create space to listen to God, learn from others, and lead lives that love at NicoleTWalters.com. I have authored essays in several books and my writing has appeared in places like CT Women, Fathom, Red Letter Christians, and (in)courage. I am a regular contributor at here SheLoves Magazine and The Mudrooom and am a member of the Redbud Writers Guild.
Nicole T Walters
Nicole T Walters

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