The winter of our discontent

“You should go back to work.”

How many times do SAHMs get this message a day? How many times are we bombarded with images of moms that have it all—a fulfilling career, happiness as a mother, a happy marriage, a good income, a beautiful home, fabulous vacations, loving and obedient children, and basically every dream they ever wanted coming true?

I feel like I find an example of someone I should envy like that every day. But I also know that, although we’ve been told we really can have it all, and have it all right now, we can’t. As Tina Fey said in an interview with Parade Magazine:

I think my generation has been slightly tricked in that you’re really encouraged to try to have it all.

Even Oprah has admitted that we can’t really have it all right now. There are seasons in life—and many of us choose to be at home with our children during the season where they are at home all day.

As if providing for small, needy, dependent people weren’t emotionally demanding enough, we also receive these daily messages that we’re not doing enough (maybe this is why we end up with kids in eight sports, learning six different instruments, at three different summer camps . . . ). Raising our children isn’t enough: we should be “productive.” We should “contribute to society” (my rant on how nothing contributes more to society than raising children will wait for another day). We should be in a “real job” (ha!).

Perhaps most discouraging of all is when someone who appears to mean well tells us we should be working outside the home for ourselves, after we’ve made the sometimes-difficult-but-always-challenging decision to stay home with our children for their benefit. Because, implies this person trying to be helpful, stay-at-home moms do nothing for themselves and allow themselves to be devalued.

This kind of advice automatically assumes that all work in the home is demoralizing and all work outside the home is fulfilling. IT’S NOT.

The fact of the matter is that very, very, VERY few jobs are inherently fulfilling on a daily basis, motherhood included (though I believe and hope that ultimately, motherhood will be the most fulfilling occupation I could devote myself to). Most people I know, at least from time to time, feel like Sisyphus in their jobs—mothers, teachers, loan document specialists, production managers, nurses, web content developers, accountants, social workers, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

While yes, some people find a measure of fulfillment in the fact that their work is rewarded verbally or monetarily, I think that in the end, fulfillment does not come from external sources.

stepping_stonesFulfillment comes from within us. That’s kind of the underlying point of a lot of the steps to fulfillment that I’ve been working on. Fulfillment is rooted in recognizing the good moments and being content with our lives.

If I can’t be content with my (already quite stressed, thank you very much) life as a stay-at-home mom, why would working outside the home, adding more stress and increasing the pressure on me to influence, appreciate, guide, discipline and most of all show my love for my children in a fraction of the time, suddenly make me more fulfilled?

Yes, I know that some mothers do truly enjoy working outside the home and do truly feel like better mothers because of this. But just like staying at home doesn’t work for every mother, another mother’s ability/need/appreciation of working outside the home doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone, no, not even every mother who struggles with motherhood (and, honestly, who doesn’t struggle from time to time?).

The first step to fulfillment—as a mom, as a working mother, as a human—is learning to be content with our season in life.

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6 thoughts on “The winter of our discontent

  1. I loved your post. I am not a mother yet but I always wondered why there was so much tension between Working Moms and Stay At Home Moms. They are both hard, tiring and stressful jobs. I mad respect for both. Being either one is not an easy decision. You hit the nail right on the head with Fulfillment #1: Contentment.

  2. Hey Jordan,
    Another good consideration of life or at least how to think through what would bring more contentment into our lives. I believe that we *can* have it all, just not all at once. ;+) I think that links to your idea of seasons of life. For now, for me and my family, my working outside of the home brings me contentment. I’ve changed my career path to bring my life more into balance since my daughter was born. If I couldn’t have changed the hours and the stress level, maybe I would have stayed home. I’ll keep looking for what is right as the seasons of my life change.

  3. I agree. Learning to be content where we are **right this minute** is what will make the difference.

    I’ve been mulling over the possibility of “finding joy now” after teaching a YW lesson on the topic a few weeks ago. My conclusion is: yes. I say yes to motherhood, to possibility, and to opening our hearts and our eyes and finding joy, every moment between now and forever.

  4. Yes, I agree. Find joy in your “now”.
    Appreciate the gift you have been given. Motherhood!
    Motherhood does not need to be accompanied with the Martyr attitude.

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