The New Normal – Thoughts to Working Moms
Ten years ago, I went from being a full-time, stay-at-home-mom for eleven years to a full-time teacher of high school students. A rude awakening to say the least. Over the last few years, several people have asked, “How do you do it?” While I’m not an expert, here’s a start. Recently a friend also asked for advice, so here is the thumbnail sketch:
Some words of wisdom to
full-time working mothers
of children still at home
(especially the SAHM’ers).
Life will never be the same, so don’t expect it to be. Sorry if that deflates your sail, but if you can realistically see your life in seasons, it will help. This is the working season, so don’t try to expect to do everything you did as a SAHM. It’s not possible. But this season can be good, too. Realize you are in transition, and give yourself grace as you figure out how life looks in this season.
Talk with your husband about the new “normal.” For a year or so I tried to do everything I did as wife and mother before I worked. It wasn’t possible. Ron and I had a discussion and I shared the things that were most stressful for me. For me, that was paying the bills and cleaning the house. For a few years we had a cleaning lady, but after she quit, he looked at me and said, “we can do this together.” So he sweeps each weekend, and I have time to get the other household chores done. He’s also learned to make meals if needed and he helps clean up the dishes after we eat. It’s become a partnership. And don’t let anyone tell you, “my husband wouldn’t do that.” I married the #1 farmer-husband-who-did-not-do-a-thing-in-the-house growing up. If your husband is supporting you, it’s okay to say, “I can’t do it all.”
Working or Not Working Does Not Define You as a Christian Woman. This one was a hard one for me, but as I pursued God and asked Him, “Lord, show me how to be the Christian woman YOU desire me to be,” He answered loud and clear (that’s another story). Your identity is not in staying-at-home or working. I’ve been in both roles, and I know the struggle. Your identity as a woman is in Christ and in your partnership with your husband. If your husband supports you, then rest in the Lord’s word to you and the headship of your husband.
Have more fun time with your kids. I realized being a teacher could consume my not-at-school-time if I let it, so I intentionally made time to connect with the kids. I started to “date” my kids individually during this time and I often took all of them to breakfast before school for something special. Part of the reality is you are earning money that may allow you to do some of these things you could not have had done before. I wanted to be fully present as much as I could with my kids. I may not have had cookies for them when they came home from school, but we often stopped for a hot pretzel on the way home!
Give your kids responsibilities and have some sort of organizational system that meets your family’s needs. For us it was an erasable calendar and shoe bins. Each child had their own drawer in a plastic tub for shoes and whatever shoes they needed for sports went in there, along with anything else that was theirs. With kids at different ages and stages, having spots where everyone knows where things are can be essential. Give kids ownership, too, because it just helps them and you.
Have a cooking day and put meals in the freezer. This, for me, was the best investment of time. In 3-4 hours on a Saturday, I would have up to 25 meals (a lot of casseroles) in the freezer. I would also multiply things if I were in the kitchen cooking a regular meal. If I had to cook one pound of hamburger, I’d cook 3-4 instead and put extra in freezer bags for quick meals (the same is true for rice, pasta, etc.). I would program my oven to turn on at noon and come home to a meal ready to go, or have it thaw during the day and stick it in the oven once I got home. A life saver!
Do laundry during the week. I was overwhelmed some Saturdays trying to do laundry, go to sporting events, and get the house somewhat clean. I bought a divided clothes hamper and would start laundry about Tuesday and would do a couple of loads a night. By Friday, all laundry was done, in the kids’ baskets, and they were sent to put their clothes away. Since we had our 4th child, I have had a laundry basket for each child’s clothes. As I get them out of the dryer, I just put them in the perspective basket and it’s their job (since they were 5) to put them away. For us, this works.
Groceries – good luck. Most of the times I bought in bulk so I didn’t have to “shop” for 3 or 4 weeks other than the quick trips for perishables and the “Mom, I need this for school tomorrow” things.
Above all else, find what works for you (none of this may, but it’s what’s worked for us), and implement self-care. I started running at 34 because it was the only 30 minutes I had to myself. I never was at my house alone anymore. So, this became my solace. It might be a morning cup of coffee in a room by yourself on the weekend, or early bedtime for the kids so you can have some quiet time. You’ll need time for yourself. Don’t feel guilty for taking it.
“Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 30:31
These are just things that have worked for us. Working moms, what has also worked for you?
Blessings to all of God’s beautiful women!