Meet Tracy Thomas, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Bright Hope, wife of Tojy and mother to Soraya, Caleb and Zachary. Tracy has been a working woman since her teens – she paid for college working at carnivals every summer (as a “carnie” she likes to call it), selling fried vegetables for her best friend’s dad at the Indiana fair and festival circuit. With three small children, her life certainly hasn’t gotten any less hectic, but we snagged a half hour of her time this week to ask her about her calling to the workplace and how she deals with guilt about being a working mom.
4word: Society's view on women in the workplace has changed considerably over the past few decades. We've gone from women only working as secretaries and telephone operators (a la Mad Men) to a time when women business leaders are celebrated at events like the Harvard Business School's W50 Summit. Have you noticed similar changes in the church's view of working women?
Tracy: Yes, absolutely. I think a large part of the change is due to the higher number of single moms who attend church. They have to work to support their families. For the average American churchgoer, working women are more common and more accepted. Traditionally men still want to provide enough for their families so their wives can administrate the home and care for the children. This is a large part of the picture we see in the Proverbs 31 woman, but what is so often not emphasized is the work she put her hands to. She was very successful in the marketplace! I think the church is beginning to understand this, and overall, is quite accepting of talented and ambitious Christian women who desire to pursue their careers and a family.
4word: Can you tell us when and how you first discerned a calling to be in the workplace?
Tracy: As a young child in grade school, I had big dreams to live in a big city and work at an influential job. My mom was at home with me through most of my childhood, so this was a drift from what was modeled for me. Once I entered the workplace I just knew God was giving me favor wherever I worked. I would often have non-Christians ask me, “How did you get that appointment?” or “Why is he so nice to you and not the rest of us?” It seemed my desires, which were God-given, and my success, also God-given, proved that I was where I was supposed to be.
4word: Many working mothers struggle with guilt, whether it’s about not being a good mother or not being devoted enough to their job. Is this something that you struggle with too? How, specifically?
Tracy: Yes, absolutely. For me it’s more specifically defeat – feeling like all of the roles I play are too much. As I’ve grown and learned the best ways to balance work, ministry and family, I’ve felt a burden for all women dealing with this issue. Then one day it hit me – when God calls women to work in the marketplace, for whatever reason, that is their calling. Just because a woman needs to go to work to provide for her family doesn’t negate that this is her God-given calling.
As Christian working moms, we can overcome that feeling of guilt knowing that God is taking care of our kids when we’re at the office, and that He’s strengthening our career when we need to pay extra attention to our kids. I’ve learned to take my cues from the Lord on this one. When I know I’m in tune with where He wants me to focus, the “guilt factor” lessens.
4word: Does knowing that God has called you to the workplace help you overcome a false sense of guilt? How so?
Tracy: I believe the word “guilt” could be replaced with “discontentment.” When I am discontent, I lack peace, so I ask myself, “What has stolen my peace and given me this sense of guilt?” I know God has added these blessings to my life, and when I begin to feel guilt or defeat, I call it out for what it is: discontentment challenging my peace.
I’m never going to be perfect. But knowing that God has given me these many things to manage, and that ultimately it is all His, gives me peace that I will do it right. But I have to look to Him. I have to start every single day in His Word, and talking to Him in prayer.
Whether you’re a mother, single, married (or any combination of those three), have you ever felt guilty about being a working woman? Let us know in the comments.