I believe you could ask this question of two hundred different working mothers and discover two hundred different answers. What works for me will be quite different to what works for other women, and their families. And yet each story is surely of equal value, in that in the sharing of those stories perhaps other women will gain insight, ideas and realise there are all kinds of different ways to tackle this role, should they find themselves in the place of "Working Mother". May I just start, however, with the comment that I was fully committed to being a SAHM, until my children had all started school, and even a couple of years beyond that. I, in fact, had no desire to work outside of home for a very long time. God did a lot of work on me to get me to the point that I would consider working. So let me share with you what makes it work for me.
- I work in the same place that my children spend their day. I am blessed to be in a position where I do not need to split my priorities between my most precious little people and my work. My children come to school early with me, and leave late with me. And my fellow colleagues are very accommodating in allowing them some after-school privileges in the library. So long as that privilege is never abused, they will be able to continue to enjoy the trust they have, thus far, gained.
- My husband has been very supportive of what I do, as he has been when I have suggested that I would like to study on top of everything else. He willingly has the children at the office, on occasion, after school and usually a day or so during each term's work break. His willingness to be flexible has a huge positive impact on my ability to do what I do. I know sometimes the arrangements that are required can be inconvenient, but he makes it happen anyway.
- There is much planning that goes into our meals, as regular readers would have seen. I carefully consider my work schedule and days off as I plan our week's meals. I plan meals that are quick for our busy days and more time consuming meals for days when I know I'll be home by 4pm and have nowhere to be for the rest of the evening. Sometimes I mess that up a bit, but the kids are old enough to eat a little late and not be too perturbed or think they've been unreasonably starved.
- I have learned to say 'no'. A valuable skill for a busy servant-hearted person! I hold the opinion that anyone can ask me to do something, but that doesn't obligate me to say yes. The year Mr Busy was in Preschool taught me that I simply cannot do everything that comes my way, and I began to value a yearly review of what I do. Learning how to seek God as I make these decisions has been invaluable, and a process I always employ when I consider significant commitments.
- My standards for housekeeping are perhaps lower and somewhat unacceptable to more diligent homemakers. I, however, recognise that I simply cannot keep up a really high standard and stay sane. I sweep the floors when they bug me. I clean bathrooms when I notice they need it. The kids help with emptying the dishwasher and doing other dishes....some days the dishes don't get done. And I'm OK with that. Clutter bugs me, so things never get completely out of control. You may find the kitchen benches a little overrun and there may be a pile or two in the lounge room ready to head out to the caravan. That's as bad as it gets. I rarely have much input into how the kids keep their rooms beyond a quarterly clean out. If they can stand their own mess, I can shut their doors.
- I confess to being a bit Nazi-like when it comes to having the kids clean up behind themselves. I will call them back and have them finish a task or put something they have used away, rather than doing it myself. The path of least resistance is not necessarily the best. I strongly object to being the only one doing all the work when everyone else gets to relax and watch telly!
- As strange as this may seem, I ensure that I have things built into my days that I know I will enjoy. While each thing would appear to be something else that must be done, this is not how I view these activities. Reading a book when I hope into bed. Stitching evenings once a fortnight. Book Club once every six weeks and the occasional women's function at church as well as the more unexpected things like a quick cuppa with a friend. All of these things build an added measure of joy into each week and provide something to look forward to.
- How I cope with my work week also has a lot to do with how I feel about my workplace and the people I work with. My workplace is a living, breathing example of a Christian community where we each practise what it is to be committed to the larger body of Christ. I work with amazing men and women for whom I have deep respect and great affection. I find myself blessed whenever I am in a position to be a measure of support and encouragement to my colleagues, although receiving anything for myself is rarely my motivation.
How do YOU do it and cope with your busy schedule?