I will never forget those early days after I went back to being a working mom. I had been home for nearly two years with my kiddos after having been laid off in early 2015. I’ve never been an emotional person, but thinking back now, I can still feel the intense pain and hot tears from my commute during those first long months.
Not being able to walk my daughter personally to class, and putting her instead on a bus all by her 5-year-old self. Trusting in a half-acquaintance to pick her up and drive her to my son’s daycare after school. Not getting off work until 5pm, then driving the half an hour distance to our small town, trying to make the daycare pickup deadline by 5:30……..praying all the while that I wouldn’t be delayed by traffic. Rushing in the door each evening, throwing a partially nutritious meal in the oven, sitting down to homework with the kids, then bedtime – only to do it all over again the next day. These were the things that drained me.
Being a working mom is really hard. You are expected to do and to maintain all the things, all the while making sure that your family feels your love and undivided devotion. Being torn between your responsibilities at work, and your responsibility to your family is excruciating. The never-ending guilt weighs heavy every moment of the day.
Years ago, I saw a meme (that I now can’t seem to find) that listed all of the roles expected of a wife and mom:
- Gourmet Chef
- French Maid
- World’s Best Mom
- Bread Winner
- Sex Kitten
- You get the point…
Then it said, “Pick Three.” Because in all reality, operating at full capacity in all of these 100% of the time, is not a possibility. But it doesn’t stop us from trying, does it? And it doesn’t change the fact, that all of these roles still need to be filled. So then, we’re exhausted. And emotional. And cranky.
But When There Is No Time For Rest, How Do You Go About Finding It?
1. Maintain a Healthy Balance
Before I had been laid off, my priorities were out of whack. If I needed to stay and work later, I did. If I needed to bring work home with me, I did that too. My priorities were aligned in this order: Work…Family……….…………..God. By the time I had gone back to work, those priorities had gone through a major restructuring (to read more about this, check out my post on Finding Joy in Unemployment). This shift in my focus brought a peace that only God can bring.
In Luke we read about Mary and Martha, two of Jesus’ closest friends.
As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”Luke 10:38-42
Mary had recognized all the work that needed to be accomplished, but she also recognized her need to attend to her soul first. And she was commended by the King of all Kings for doing so.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.Ecclesiastes 3:1
You also can’t try and maintain all of the things. They are not your responsibility. Some friendships might fall, but the true ones will remain. Some of you kids’ activities will be dropped, but your kids will survive. Someone else may have to step in and take over that volunteer position that you hold. Whatever it is for you, loosen your grip. Give it to the Lord.
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.1 Peter 5:7
Letting go doesn’t necessarily mean that you will lose it. Letting go, just means that you’re trusting in the Father’s lead (more on this further down).
2. Build a Support System
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.Galatians 6:2
You know the expression, “It takes a village”? There is no one who depends on this more than a working mom. I tell ya, I couldn’t have done it without my tribe. I had my close-knit group in my hometown who were willing to pick up, drop off, and watch my kiddos in a pinch, but also to pray for and encourage me when I needed it most. But I also had my fellow working moms that I’d had the pleasure of growing with in my career through organizational changes and varying life stages. These were moms who got me. These were moms who knew how to use a dryer better than an iron, who knew the pressure of a meeting running late and overlapping a soccer practice, and who knew the sorrow of missing you son’s mid-day performance in his kindergarten class.
In order to avoid full on burnout, we need our peeps. We need those minivan friends who have no problem throwing your kiddos in with their own four (or is it five….I can’t keep up). We need the friends who have been there, whether recently or decades earlier when their own were growing up. We need those who love your kids as their own, and are always ready to welcome them with a soft hug and a fun treat.
Two are better than one,Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
But this support system works both ways. When you are able, be that minivan mom (or in my case, the 4Runner mom, although my 4Runner doesn’t carry as many as the minivan, but you get the gist), be the mom with an ear of understanding and experience, be the hug and fun treat. In the first century church, the early Christians learned how to do this in a big way:
All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.Acts 2:44-47
Now, I’m not suggesting that we sell all our possessions and move to a commune. But wouldn’t it be cool if we operated in that mindset? If we were concerned about meeting the needs of the other moms within our reach, and allowing our needs to be met by those same moms in turn? Imagine the rest we might feel.
3. Find Your Moments
Most of us feel that we don’t have a free moment to find. But they’re there, I promise.
First, we need to understand that rest is important. Taking a few moments out of our day, or week, for ourselves is not as selfish as it feels. God modeled this for us when He created the very planet that we stand on.
By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all His work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done.Genesis 2:2-3
And Jesus modeled it for us centuries later.
Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”Mark 6:31
For me, some of these came as stolen moments, in my office with the door closed, listening to my instrumental hymns station on Pandora, finding that peace in the midst of a hectic day. Other times, I forced myself to take a lunchbreak and park under a cherry tree in the spring so that I could read through my Bible study, or to stroll through the hushed atmosphere of our local Barnes and Noble, coffee in hand. I also took advantage of my commute to sit in silence, to sing a worship song, or to just talk to my mom on the phone uninterrupted.
In her book, Finding Selah (Affiliate Link), Kristen Kill talks about a time while living in the hustle and bustle of New York City when she was ushering her brood through the busy and chaotic streets on their way to Central Park. While waiting for a taxi to take pity on her, her eyes caught a glimpse of green ivy growing on a brownstone. She had this to say about the experience: “For just a moment, I had lingered. I’d borne witness to a green against so much gray. And though it had only lasted for a short moment, the reminder of that beauty sustained me all day. My soul had stopped racing when I looked full into the green, and I’d almost forgotten all the worries I’d been carrying of being late, all the to-dos I’d been checking off, all the ways I’d been stretching myself across the things that urgently needed my attention right now. A peace had risen to the surface of my mind and heart – and I wanted it to remain.”
However you find your moment, take it and hold onto it, and cherish it for the gift that it is from God above.
4. Check Your Attitude
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.Proverbs 17:22
This one can be a punch to the gut. We all know those who do nothing but complain about their situation. Honestly, when I first went back to work, I spent a lot of time feeling really sorry for myself. I might not have been outwardly grumbling, but I definitely felt sour on the inside.
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.Philippians 2:14-15
Can you imagine what it would feel like to shine like a star in the sky? My guess is that you would experience something like extreme light-heartedness. Is there anything more restful sounding than that?
Since then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.Colossians 3:1
How do you combat a bad attitude? Divert your focus from your miserable circumstances to those things that are from the Lord. Spend time getting to know Him and all that He’s done for you. Find joy in who He is.
This is not an over-night change. This is the type of change that comes from new routines of putting your time with Him first. This comes from constant conversation with Him throughout your day. This comes from keeping a lookout for His blessings in your life.
This is a step I would not skip.
5. Trust in His Plan
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.Jeremiah 29:11
True rest comes in following His lead. Nothing surprises Him, He’s already seen it coming. We waste so much time and energy worrying about what’s next. We try to have plans for any and all circumstances. Some of us carry the tools for plans A, B, and Z within our handbags, always prepared for any possible scenario. (I had one girlfriend pull a cucumber out of her purse once in the middle of the workday. Another friend pulled out jars of peanut butter and jelly at the park. You really never know what you might need when!)
But with God, we don’t need to worry about all the things. That’s His job. If we obey His command, follow His lead, He will provide and take care of our every need.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”Joshua 1:9
Whatever He asks of you, whether its sharing in carpool, coaching little league, or providing a snack for your daughter’s Valentine’s Day party at school, He will be with you, and He will provide all that you need. Trust in Him.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.Philippians 4:12-13