While there are many challenges to being a working mom, there are a lot of great things that come with the territory. Research such as Sally Heglesen’s book The Female Advantage cites that moms learn to have an integrated approach to work life and home life in being forced to be more resourceful with their time and energy. Heglesen writes: “Increasingly, motherhood is being recognized as an excellent school for managers, demanding many of the same skills: organization, pacing, the balancing of conflicting claims, teaching, guiding, leading, monitoring, handling disturbances, imparting information.”
Though I haven’t’ yet read Heglesen’s book, a fellow working-mom colleague Anne Hong cited it in a paper she wrote on Issues of Leadership Development for Women in their 30’s which was recently posted on InterVarsity’s staff site. With Anne’s permission she’s made her paper available to any of my blog readers who want to read more on the topic beyond these posts. .IssuesofLeadershipDevelopmentforWomeninTheirThirties-1.12424
This week I’ve been away at meetings for my work with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Spending time interviewing new staff candidates, making decision about how to reach more students in our region, and presenting my plans and ideas about how to grow evangelistic efforts and innovation feels like a worthwhile & life-giving investment though I’m away from home. It also is a vast departure from how I spent my time last week watching Dinosaur Train, playing with play-doh, and helping my little guy recover from the flu. Though there were various points last week I felt stressed about the work I wasn’t getting done because of Reuben being sick and Dave being away for work I remembered the words of Marcus Buckingham.
In Marcus Buckingham’s book Find Your Strongest Life: What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently one of his best points was to focus on the type of time you spend with your loved ones or kids rather than feeling guilty about the quantity. In other words, when you’re with your kids or (your husband) be present to them fully and make it a high quality time together. Make memories and be present to your child whether you’re putting together a puzzle, playing at the playground or having an adventure building a snowman. I feel the worst about being a working mom is when I’m strapped for time or childcare and am unsuccessfully straddling checking emails on my iPhone while I make lunch for Reuben, reading staff applications between setting up train tracks for him to drive Thomas, James and Henry around, or taking phone calls while I ask him to play quietly (does this ever work like you think it does?) in the next room. Typically I am able to segregate my time well- when I’m not on the road attending meetings, speaking at chapters across our region, I leave the house with my laptop to inhabit the coffeehouse and get my work done.
Being a working mom the double blessing that I’ve realized over time is that if I’m able to have healthy boundaries I can spend quality time with Reuben and enjoy productive time with my job. While I’m outside the home working it feels like a refreshing break to put my mind, energy and creativity towards concrete, measurable goals that influence thousands of people. I love being with colleagues who challenge me, engage in thoughtful conversations and are working together for a purpose we all believe in. When I’m away, I feel like I’m able to be in work mode and by the time the meeting ends I’m ready to go home and spend some quality time with my family. Being a working mom provides an opportunity to develop my skills and abilities, make a difference in the world and be refreshed intellectually, spiritually and professionally.
During my sabbatical I had the helpful realization that I’m a pressure-prompted, projects driven person. When I have a lot of time on my hands, I feel like I’m a bit aimless, get depressed and overwhelmed by the amount of options of how I could spend my day. Dave actually forced me to go speak at an InterVarsity chapter during my sabbatical because he saw how much I was languishing not using my gifts of speaking and evangelism. For whatever reason, God seems to have created me to enjoy juggling multiple roles, relationships and projects. I think if I wasn’t working outside the home, I’d still want to fill my time with volunteer roles. If I’d do this anyways I might as well get paid for it. Whether it is a 1/2 day or a multi-day trip for work I feel refreshed and ready to enter life back at home with Reuben, ready to play trains, read as many Curious George books as he requests and snuggle together while watching Despicable Me.
Fellow working moms, what are things that you enjoy about the double roles of managing life at home and at work? Last week I wrote about the challenges, but there are a lot of other things that are great about working and having a family.