“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” –Thomas Edison
“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” –Thomas Jefferson
Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work I go! This is the song that I sang this week as I headed back to school to substitute teach for the preschool summer classrooms. I call the weeks that I substitute in the summer my ‘mental health weeks’…they keep me sane and help me stay mentally balanced while being home for the summer with my adorable Ellie. A lot of people don’t understand why I substitute in the summer, after all, who would choose to work when they have the chance not to? In fact, some people wonder why I work at all, especially now that I have Ellie. And though they may not say it, I know they think it. After all, society all but expects women to stay at home all day cooking and cleaning the second they get pregnant. Ha! I worked full time and all school year and summer long my entire pregnancy. I didn’t have the luxury of napping, or sleeping in; and I loved it! I took 8 weeks off when Ellie was born and went back to work for the remainder of the school year. Take that society! I love being a working mom; it keeps me sane.
But what about your children? It’s not fair to them that you work. Or is it? For me, I need to work. I go crazy if I’m not doing something, I loose patience, I feel like I have no purpose, so I get depressed…and you’re fooling yourself if you think that this doesn’t effect my parenting. Of course it does! I find that I spend far more quality time with Ellie when I am on my work schedule. Furthermore, in an article by The Washington Post research concerning working mothers is reported. The study that the article refers to found that the effects on child development of full-time working mothers was neutral; there was no difference in a child’s development when comparing a child of a working mother and a child of a stay at home mother. Additionally, the Post reports that working mothers “displayed greater “maternal sensitivity,” or responsiveness toward their children, than stay-at-home mothers”. Again, take that society. You were wrong once again.
Not that society is the only social influence that makes working moms feel bad. For a long time religion has also advocated stay at home motherhood. I find this rather amusing. Religious groups from wide and far love Proverbs 31…a wife should be virtuous, she will be praised by her children, she will gird herself with strength. Yes, I agree. But it seems that we so often focus on only these things and skip over the in between. Proverbs 31 also speaks of a woman who “willingly works with her hands” (this can apply to baking bread or working on an assembly line), she “considers a field and buys it…plants a vineyard” (she could have an at home vegetable garden or be a smart business woman), she “perceives that her merchandise is good” (maybe she sews clothes for her family or maybe she is an entrepreneur), and “her hands hold the spindle” (perhaps she makes things for her family or maybe she works as a seamstress), while she also “supplies sashes for the merchants” (aka: she has a job). Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not attacking stay at home moms. But they need to understand that all too often you make the rest of us feel like really horrible people because of the fact that we work; and based on what? A Biblical passage that you take bits and pieces of, the bits and pieces that you want to. The key word here is or. The actions of the virtuous wife that Proverbs 31 talks about could be considered in both lights. It is important to remember that either choice is not wrong, we are all different and pursue this adventure of life differently, but we do need to understand and support each other regardless of what path a person chooses.
For me, I have to work. I love it. As Thomas Edison says, I would have missed so many opportunities if I did not work and teach. I wouldn’t have been able to give that little boy a winter jacket, or pray for that little girl who witnessed her mother being shot, or hug that child who was having a bad day, or refer that child for speech services, or pray for an entire class of children that someday God would touch their hearts and they would come to know Him as their savior. Not that this was easy; teaching is hard work. Leaving my daughter while I work is not easy either; but it’s worth it. Not only is she able to spend time with family members, but she is learning independence. I want to raise a child who some day has the confidence to go out into the world and make her own way; independence starts young. Besides, she gets to have so many adventures of her own while I am at work. And not only this, but I believe so much in what I do; I believe that it is a work worth doing as Thomas Jefferson says. With an emphasis on foreign missions, churches sometimes forget about the poor and weary and suffering within our own communities. My job allows me to serve within my community and work to love and teach and support families and children who need it most. It is fulfilling. It keeps my humble. It gives me opportunity that I would never have if I stayed at home. And it teaches Ellie that there are other people in the world that mumma needs to help besides her; it teaches her selflessness and giving. I know she is only seventeen months, and she may not fully understand for a few more years, but the lesson will be there when she is ready.
(Ellie hanging out with her Aunties and Mam while Mumma is at work)
Was this week a long one? Certainly! I worked hours that I do not prefer while also taking two upper level college courses. It was hard. Ellie was less than happy, but she survived. And someday she will understand. Despite long hours of teaching only to head straight to class or home to write essays and complete other homework, I had tons of fun! I had conversations about what kind of car we would all drive when we grew up. One girl wanted a “very very very pink pink pink cars with stickers I can take on and off”. While a little boy wanted a “blue truck with spikey nails and stickers.” I got to hug a child when he fell down, and engage in wondrous observation of an inchworm. Then I helped to coordinate the construction of two fabulous sand castles that five or six three and four year olds worked together to create, complete with landscaping consisting of bushes and grass and apple and banana trees, a moat and several drawbridges and firebridges.
It’s a pretty awesome sandcastle. And it was a pretty awesome, yet crazy and difficult week. Some people may question or lack understanding for why I work and attend college. They may believe that it is not fair to my child. But I would not have chosen another path or another adventure. I love what I do; work and school alike. And it is my prayer that someday Ellie will look back on my adventure and understand. She will see my hard work and the way that I value it. She will see my love for learning and my commitment to furthering my knowledge. Hopefully she will learn from my adventures and be given the desire to follow her own path, valuing hard work and education as much as I did.