I finished The Bronte Plot this week. So then I pulled old, old copies of books by the Brontes themselves off my shelf and contemplated actually reading Wuthering Heights since I’d tackled another copy of Jane Eyre back in January and loved it.
These books belonged to my maternal grandmother, a woman I realize now I barely knew, but who left an indelible enough impression that I’ve crafted a novel around her memory. And ironically, tucked inside the front cover of that Jane Eyre I found too delicate to read (I have a tendency to break bindings) was this yellowed article torn from some Lowcountry paper, a fact deduced from the wedding announcements listed on the back.
I can’t remember now how I came to possess these treasures of my grandmother, but I would guess my mother gave them to me at some point. Which makes me wonder if Grandmommy White Hair (that’s what we called her and I’m sure she appreciated it) left it there for her to find. It cites stats from 1983–the year my mother went back to work after staying home for a year with my brother and I. The year she also had another baby we brought home from the hospital in a Christmas stocking.
I’m not sure what the message in this piece of forgotten paper was.
But I’m sure it wasn’t a chastisement or a discouragement. As sure as I am it wasn’t that, I am equally certain, that perhaps, the last lines were her intent. In an article that says nothing different than articles of the same topic today–working mothers make less than their male counterparts, women in general make up much of the work force for less pay, women with children are more likely to take underpaying, part-time jobs, or become self-employed–the close is that even with the monetary discrepancies, women work for “independence, autonomy, and feelings of self-worth”.
My friend re-posted an article this week–a reminder to mothers that our work matters here at home too. We forget that all too easily, and we live in a world that glorifies the mom who can do it all.
I follow a lot of mothers who are big bloggers and for a long time I thought they either were a) much more organized than me, b) required much less sleep than I, or c) more loved by God because of how they’d been blessed.
You know the women I’m talking about, right? The ones who homeschool and cook organic, paleo meals from scratch with ingredients price matched and make sensory bins for every child and delight in every moment on Instagram and run an Etsy shop out of their garage and have a blog getting 10,000+ hits a month and have a book deal with Thomas Nelson and go on dates with their husbands and call themselves “stay at home” moms.
We have a habit of believing these accomplished ladies have found some secret to motherhood–some balance–that the rest of us have not yet discovered.
They have. She’s called the babysitter.
People tell me all the time they don’t know how I do it all. I get this from people who really only know I have four kids. From people who know I have four kids and blog and write for the newspaper. People who know I have four kids and a book contract and the title Editor. People who know I have four kids and freelance for the first paycheck I’ve brought home steady in five years.
Then they find out I make homemade pizza on Friday nights and they really act like I’ve accomplished a great feat.
So I tell them the truth: this is the first year I’ve been able to do motherhood and writing to build a career and homemaking with any sort of balance.
Because for twelve hours out of every week all four of my kids are in school at the same time.
And when they’re not? When it’s Spring Break (hello this week) or vacation or too many snow days, I drop some balls. And I hire a babysitter.
The truth is no one is doing it all. Not all by themselves. There are grandmothers or aunts or best friends or college students or husbands there helping. What women who are doing great things for Jesus from the corner desk in their kitchen have that you don’t have is the ability to admit– I can’t do it all without some help.
Some of them are just more transparent about that than others.
My favorite podcast these days is Anne Bogel from Modern Mrs. Darcy with What Should I Read Next. After that, I love Tsh and The Simple Show. They got together a couple weeks ago and talked work. How they run big business blogs and write books and travel and raise kids and homeschool all in one day.
Did you guess it? They have help.
Staying home is the greatest blessing my husband and the Lord could have ever given me. Being the one who’s available when they’re sick, when we have dentist appointments or doctor check ups or Career Day or field trips, is a gift–and sometimes, a drudgery. Let’s be honest.
I believe I was called home. I believe some women are called out. I believe we’re all great moms.
But I also believe (because my mom who raised seven children and worked outside the home all my life except for 1982 tells me all the time) WE ARE TOO HARD ON OURSELVES AND OUR EXPECTATIONS ARE UNREASONABLE.
Yes, I do what seems like a lot of things. But I have a team of people who back me up on all those things and extend grace when I miss a deadline.
Yes, I make homemade pizza. But we also have a line item in our budget for Chic-Fil-A.
Yes, I have four kids. And when I carve out time to do the work that enriches my soul, I become a better mom.
And they get two hours with a babysitter who isn’t impatient or snappy, who lets them eat more popsicles, play games I hate, and she jumps on the trampoline with them for an hour.
Everybody wins. And that, friends, is when it pays to be a working mother.
Want some of my favorite tips for doing it all? AKA Podcasts to Listen To, Books to Read, and Shows to Watch while folding the laundry? With a recipe for pizza too, of course. Sign up for my monthly-ish newsletter. First installment coming this weekend… maybe. If the babysitter is available.