It was a typical morning. The alarm went off at 6:40 a.m. Snooze was hit once. There was a sleepy, teething baby girl that took over the spot of my husband, who had left for work. Our son was already up, sitting on the couch and watching cartoons. His pleading for pre-packaged blueberry muffins woke up his sister. Ready or not, it was time to kick it into high gear and get ready for school and work.
Sounds of the blender, breast pump, and electric toothbrushes filled the house. A computer charger, matching sock, and school folder couldn’t be found. Then, the realization that I didn’t have a sitter for my daughter for that afternoon’s work meeting, the lab stealing the last mini muffin, and a diaper blowout-induced bath kept me from seeing it… the thief walking right into our house.
The Thief of Joy
He was quiet, stealthy. No one knew he was there, but I could feel him during our frantic scrambles. As the backpack, diaper bag, and workbag were thrown into the car, he snuck into the backseat of our minivan. He was there as I watched my forgotten coffee fly off the roof of my car and spill down my windows.
He was there when I loaded myself up like a pack mule, lugging a baby, a backpack, and toddler into the school, realizing I forgot the supplies I had signed up to bring for a school project. He was there all day while I worked on agendas and emails with a sleeping baby in a bouncy seat beside me in our family company’s office. He was there when I got home and realized I forgot to put the meal in the crockpot and the now-spoiled pumped milk in the freezer earlier that morning.
This thief is the worst kind. He didn’t steal any expensive or prized possessions. All he did was whisper in my ear: “You’re not good enough.” He was a thief, not of things, but of joy.
Working Mom Guilt
Sometimes this thief sneaks in unnoticed because I am simply too busy. Other times, I leave the front door of my life wide open for him, because I fail to see my worth through the laundry and work deadlines piling up.
If I were to give this thief a name, I suppose I would call him “Guilt,” because guilt can often be the root of jealousy and discontentment in this season of life. There is mom guilt for putting my toddler in after school care and for missing out on playdates. There is mom guilt for trying to work from home with a sick kid who has to share my attention with conference calls. There is mom guilt for being too worn out for my husband who lovingly folded the laundry and cleaned up after a dinner that was haphazardly thrown together.
Guilt keeps me from seeing all the things I have to be grateful for: The job I have to help provide for my family, the sweet kids who want my hugs even if I haven’t washed my hair in a few days, and a husband that offers respite at the end of the day.
Chances are, working mom, you’ve had a visit from this thief. Maybe he is sitting beside you right now. He has fed you lies. He has forced you to miss out on the little moments because you were too caught up trying to keep all the hats from falling off your head. The funny thing about this thief is that once he steals your joy, the guilt he leaves in your heart, in turn, robs your children and your husband from a mommy and wife that is present and undistracted.
Invest in Thankfulness and Grace to Protect Yourself
This season of life has demanded that I seek encouragement and guidance from others, and here is what I can pass along to you, tired, working mom:
Embrace your roles. They are gifts, not burdens. Too many times it seems easier and, sadly, more natural to fall back into mom guilt mode. You think of all the ways you are inadequate in your roles. You see your reflection and laugh at how you have tried to balance all the toppling hats that have been placed on your head. You simply cannot be all things to all people. Let grace fill in the gaps.
Invest in a guard that keeps watch over the door of your heart to keep Guilt away, and call him “Thankfulness.” A thankful heart rarely has time or room to deal with Guilt. Thankfulness has to be intentionally called upon every morning and often needs a nudge when faced with the laundry that needs folding or the stifled desire to just put your feet up at the end of a long workday.
After all, thankfulness comes easiest when we don’t seek to change our roles in this season of life, but rather embrace it and live into the life for which we were chosen.
Listen to this podcast episode for some working-mom encouragement: To the Working Mom: Stop Feeling Guilty – 034