Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Working Mama Wednesday - Balance

I've been talking to a sweet lady through email recently who found me through my blog.  (I just love that!).  She recently asked me a question that I know many of you have either asked or are wondering, so I thought I'd answer it here for all of you to read.

Q: Do you have to balance/organize thoughts around being a Christian woman, a parent, a foster, and someone with a career at the same time?  (For the question I used her direct words - please know if you email mie I don't share our conversations or your name unless you ask me to, other than these types of questions where I can address generically to all as I'm doing here.)

A:  This question is most easily answered yes, of course.  Honestly, I think most women have to figure out how to balance the components of their lives, and for every additional component that is added there is more balancing that needs to be done.  Here was my answer to her question -
Honestly, this isn't a huge struggle for me. The hardest struggle for me is not being a stay-at-home mom, not because I think that's the more "holy" thing to do but because as a bio-mom and a foster mom, all I want to do is spend time with my kids and husband most of the time! (By the way - before I gave birth to my son, I didn't expect this - I thought I was someone who would be better as a working mom, that SAHM wasn't for me...that changed 100% after my son was born and then even more after I had my first placement).  I'd love to do nothing more than spend time with them and be a homemaker - I love all things homemaker-ish. I could bake and garden and play with my kids and teach them and go shopping and cook and be crafty all day long. I love going on walks like to the park and feeding the ducks and going on nature walks to learn about the environment. I really think I'd be a perfect SAHM. Unfortunately, that's not the path God has me on right now. He has me working, making a great impact in the professional world, in the world of education, in the lives of the people I work with. He has me helping my husband provide for our family so that my husband can do an honorable yet not-well-paid job and we can both be givers both in time and money. We now have a home that could house pretty much as many children as they'll let us have and plenty of space outside where they can play. We own two houses now where we can bless another family by allowing them to rent out the other place for a discounted rate so they can have a safe, worry-free (hopefully!) place to live. All that stuff wouldn't be possible if I weren't working. I'm not saying God won't change our situation. All of that "stuff" could be gone tomorrow and we could be living in a tiny shack barely making ends meet. I don't know - we'll see what He has in store. For today, I just do what I think He's asking me to do and right now that means I work.

I gave my heart and my life to Christ a long time ago. I'm fortunate to have done so in a community of believers who passionately loved Christ and sought to live His will fully every day. None of us are perfect, but we sure tried to live with passion and purpose every day. So now I have this strong background that helps me put my priorities together. First I will live for Christ, which means I put His plan and will ahead of my own first. Then I live as my husband's wife. Our marriage comes second only to my relationship with Christ. Thankfully he is a Christian also, so that usually doesn't conflict. Third comes our children. Clearly this means our bio and/or any adopted children. Foster parenting is a ministry which technically would come after my children and in this case it does too. However once a child is in our home that child is treated as if a full-blooded bio-child and therefore receives the same priority as our other permanent children. Practically, this means that our children, all of them, come 3rd behind our marriage and our relationship with Christ but if and when we have spaces in our home we don't automatically just fill them, we do have to consider how taking a new placement will impact our marriage and our children currently in the home. Only 4th then does my work come into play. I try to keep my work in perspective as well. I work to provide, I work to be obedient, and I work to minister to those I work with. If I find myself enmeshed in a project or feeling pulled into something to the point where I'm harming my top 3 priorities, then I have to make adjustments to my work because that's how I prioritize. This is so engrained in me that I don't really think about it!

It's not always easy.  Things do become frustrating, primarily when my husband wants me to do something that would result in less time at work.  As an example, 2 days a week he is responsible for getting the kiddos ready for school and taking them so I can go in to work early.  This buys me the freedom on the 3 other days to work a shorter day (maybe 9-4:30) so he can get whatever sleep he needs and always be at work on time.  But, often, he asks if I will stay and help him get the kiddos ready.  I oblige, not only because I want to be helpful to my husband but also because I like doing that with my kids and seeing them in the morning.  The consequence is that I work a shorter day on days I've committed to working longer days.  This also happens at night when he wants me to come home earlier and not stay later on my "long" days, which ideally would be 9-10 hour days, not 12-15.  In any case, it frustrates me because he wants me to work and enjoys the financial aspect of my job but doesn't necesarily like the consequences - it puts me in a bind.  I'd be happy to quit working and stay home and always have a meal ready and always let him sleep in and always take care of the kids and always be home early.  That at this point just doesn't gel with his desire for me to keep my current job (or, at least salary!).

SO, those are the types of frustrations and therefore prioritizations that I have to make.  Thankfully, again, it's automatic in me to choose my husband and family first over my job because that is the engrained prioritization.  My thought is that if I honor Christ in that way, he will take care of my employment or, if I make the choice between my marriage and my job and end up losing my job that He will provide for us or be taking us down a different path.  I can only do what I can do.  Also, thankfully, my husband and I have learned to communicate in this area so that we can not get frustrated with each other and when I need to work longer or feel I need to work longer then I can talk about that with him, he can express his feelings on the matter, and we can come up with a solution that meets all of our needs most of the time.

I hope that helps.  It's not meant to mean I'm supermom and can handle it all without batting an eyelash.  That's not it at all and yes we struggle sometimes and yes we're tempted sometimes and yes we fail sometimes at all of this prioritization stuff.  As I said, I can only do what I can do and have to trust that God will take me where he needs me to go as I try to remain faithful to what he wants me to do. 

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