It’s back to school time again. That time of year packed with parent orientations, meet the teacher nights, supply shopping, clothing shopping, shoe shopping, and my favorite this year…..magnetic locker decorations. WHAT? And form, after form, after form to be filled out. And then we realize halfway through the form that shot records are required so a doctor appointment is needed. But there are no appointments so we have to go on a “Will Call List” and stand by. Ugh! And school hasn’t even started yet!
Then school starts and we’re exhausted trying to remember teachers’ rules about what children can bring for snack, the chosen method of school supply labeling, which night parents need to sign the Take Home Folder every week, what days a P.E. uniform are needed, And let’s not forget to mention the crack up of which child gets out of which school at which time…..one at 3:15 then across town for another at 3:30 and then back to where you started for 3:45. WHAT?
3 children + 3 school buildings + 8 teachers + 1 working mom = no supermom
I don’t know about you, but I sometimes forget which child the form in my hand is for this time. I write Jenna’s birthdate, age, and grade, only to realize this is the preschool form, not the 5th grade form. Ugh! Time to start again. Where is that email so I can print it again? Oops…the printer’s out of ink. I look over at my husband and frown. For one brief moment, I think of asking for his help.
Back in reality, I fire off an email message to my own work email reminding me of the list of things I need to pick up tomorrow during lunch. I WANT to do it all. I want to do it all MYSELF. There is something inside moms that causes us to find joy in making sure every detail is covered for our children. Ultimately, we want our children to have a great school year, which means they need to start off well. That’s why it’s so important to pause during this time of tasks, shopping, and chaos to slow down and think of what’s important.
One of the biggest sources of guilt for working moms is knowing we will not be able to be present in the classroom. What do the teachers think? Do they assume we don’t care? Well, we DO care. Some of us would love to be there. We just can’t always pull it off.
Mothers who are juggling professional life AND family time and responsibilities are berated with unnecessary guilt, because it appears we are choosing work over our children. Let’s face it. Sometimes we are a few minutes late to a parent-teacher conference, because a last-minute meeting at work went overtime. And quite often, we send store-bought cupcakes instead of a homemade masterpiece, because we simply could not squeeze in baking time between conference call prep and doctor’s appointments. When we signed up via the Signup Genius, we had the best of intentions of pulling off some fabulous recipe we saw on Pinterest while we were at a stop light…..but the clock ran out.
I decided to ask a couple of teacher friends what they really think of us working moms. What do teachers want from moms who can’t be there? Jessica, a kindergarten teacher, said:
“I can really identify with this because I have to worry about the same thing. You want someone who will love and care for your kiddos…..to make them feel loved and cared for. Teachers love your kids like they are our own. We not only teach them but we make sure they are happy with hugs and smiles. I take pictures and videos of kiddos, especially if their parents are at work. I also encourage them to email me and check up on them.”
Julie, a long-time public school teacher, assures us the key is to stay connected:
“Communicate in some way periodically, even just to say Johnny is really enjoying school. Remember, chances are fairly good your teacher is a working mom, too.”
Julie reminds us guilt isn’t limited to working moms. There’s plenty of guilt to go around where kids are concerned. “Teachers struggle with guilt, too.”
It sounds to me like what we all need is grace. We need to show grace to those around us, but most importantly, we need to live in grace ourselves. We were not designed to be Supermom. Here are some truths we need to remember.
Truth #1: We are uniquely gifted.
- God has given each of us special gifts and called us to use those gifts to serve Him (Romans 12:4-8).
- When I first became a mom, I prayed over these verses a lot. Even though I loved motherhood, I felt directed to continue to use my gifts in the business world. Of course, I put them to use in parenting too! Problem-solving, negotiation skills, and even the occasional excel spreadsheet all came into play in my child-rearing experience. I strongly recommend we all spend some time and effort discerning what our unique gifts are. Take StrengthFinders 2.0, pray, think critically, talk to friends and family. The better we understand our gifts, the better we’ll be able to discern God’s plan. Is there something we can offer to help our children’s teachers with outside the classroom? Offer to do it!
- One specific area where we can use our gifts is in writing a letter to our children’s teachers before school starts. I share my heart for my child, the logistics of my schedule, what my gifts are and how I can help with planning, SignupGenius, social media, etc. So even if we can’t be there for all of those meetings, open houses, and ice cream socials, we CAN use our giftedness to connect with teachers by being our authentic selves.
Truth #2: Accept where God has placed us for this season, and trust that He hears our prayers and has a plan for our benefit.
- “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).
We can’t feel badly about who we are. We are children of our amazing Creator and he doesn’t make junk. We rock. Guilt is NOT of the Lord. Let it go. Let’s just be the best ME each of us can be!
- Another specific thing we can do is have open dialog with our children. From a young age, let’s be clear that Mom will do our best, our best will not always be what they want, and we love them unconditionally. We can’t let our children be the cause of our guilt. Those puppy dog eyes, tears, and “her mom was there,” needs to bounce off of us like Teflon.
Truth #3: God prepared us for this situation.
- God knows us, and He has prepared us for whatever our paths may be (1 Corinthians 10:13).
- Please let me be clear. ALL mothers are “working mothers” in one form or another. And whether our work is in the home, from the home, or outside of the home, we will at times feel overwhelmed. Know that even when we feel lost, God equipped us perfectly to face everything that life can throw at us.
- The final specific thing is to remember ALL WOMEN ARE IN THIS TOGETHER. Let’s lean on one another. Group texts, mom buddies, and more grace are what it takes to get through it. We CANNOT judge one another. We can only love one another and lift up our sister in Christ as she juggles it all.
If you’re a stay-at-home mom who is struggling to transition from your former life in the corporate world, know that you have stepped away from an office leadership into an even more important role of leading your children. Be as tenacious in this position as you would have been in the office. Use your new perspective as a mother with experience in the professional world and use these combined backgrounds to recognize the juggling act working mothers must combat every day. Be an encouraging and supportive voice in their ears, not a judging frown when they come running into the recital ten minutes late.
If you are a working mother, I know the daily struggle you face. You have both feet in two drastically different worlds, and you constantly battle feeling adequate in both. As I mentioned before, God has prepared you for this. He knows what you need to get through every day, and He will not put you in any situation that you will not be able to see through to the end. So when you rush into the grocery store ten minutes before it closes to get those cupcakes, instead of the homemade ones from Pinterest, do not feel defeated. If your child is happy, healthy, and loved, it really doesn’t matter what dessert shows up with them at school. Your love and desire to provide for them will overshadow ANY superficial parenting standard unfairly placed over you.
If you are at the stage in your life and career where you are deciding which parenting style you will adopt, consider the information shared here and prayerfully consider which path you should follow. Be open and willing to follow where you are led, and know that whichever direction you head in, you are good enough, you are supported, and you must focus on being an encouraging voice to your fellow mothers.
We are all in this together. Grace, love, and support are what we need in abundance. So say NO to SUPERMOM and embrace where you are.