When Work and Mothering Collide

This week has already been one of those weeks and it’s only Wednesday. Lots of activities for my kids – between the two of them, over twenty activities. Before you gasp and judge me for overscheduling, this is not normal. I seemed to not assess the calendar impact when I signed them up for said activities.

As the activities and entertainment director of this budget cruise-ship, I’m running point getting them where they need to be, when they need to be there. While I don’t work a crazy schedule like I used to work, I still need uninterrupted work time. To be completely honest, I’ve had more than one passing thought this week complaining to myself about how disruptive their schedule is to my work schedule. Before you judge me, know I love my children. I never want to think, even passively, that my kids are a disruption to my life. They are my life. And also, as parents, we need to provide for our children, and frankly their future. Occasionally, I’ll see passive-aggresive comments on social media directed specifically at mothers judging us for choosing to work. “Why would you have children, if you just devote your life to work?” “I wish I could have a break and go to work, I’ve just decided to dedicate this season to parenting.” Before I offend anyone, I also realize that these are the comments that I’m most sensitive to, there are also the aggressive comments coming from the working moms to the stay-at-home parents. The ironic thing, I never hear these comments directed at fathers. I’m a better mom because I work. I’m a better professional, because I’m a mom. I also totally respect that isn’t a one size fits all statement. I have the utmost respect for mothers who choose to be home.

For me, I love my work. Most jobs I’ve had, I have loved. They haven’t been perfect jobs at all, there’s no such thing. However, I have loved making money while making a difference in someone’s life. Whether it was at Morning Glory’s café in Rosemount serving coffee (there’s nothing quite like handing someone their first cup of coffee in the morning), working as a CNA at a local nursing home in Lacrosse serving residents at a very vulnerable time in their life (I still tell stories of my sweet and hilarious residents), leading and developing advisors at Thrivent, or coaching business owners and leaders to help them grow the business through effective leadership of people, I’ve loved all those jobs. The funny thing about meaningful work is that it serves others, but it serves us even more profoundly. I hhave heard people say “I’m just not a worker. I’ll never love work.” In a weird way, it actually makes me sad to hear that. I think of work as serving someone else. I think all work can be meaningful if you make the effort to seek meaning. My mom used to say, “working hard is its own reward.” I have found that to be true for me.

Motherhood is no different. It’s not a perfect job, there’s no such thing. I hope to make the biggest difference in the lives of my boys, every. single. day. And yet when I’m mothering, I’m thinking about how I’m losing productivity within my professional life. When I’m working, I’m thinking about how I’m losing opportunities to impact and love on my boys. On weeks like this week, not only is motherhood and career at tension, they are colliding. As I was driving home from picking the boys up at basketball camp, I asked myself “can’t one of them release?” And here’s where my mind went over the next twenty-four hours.

Things Held at Tension Grow

Things held at tension usually grow. When we stretch ourselves, we grow ourselves, sometimes it’s uncomfortable but the growth on the other side is always worth the short-term discomfort. However, if we stretch too far, too fast, things break. Instead of focusing on the discomfort of the stretch, I really want to focus on the potential in the growth. Will this tension help me to be more creative, delegate more effectively, say no more often, ask for help, or be more efficient? I just love the idea of focusing on the outcomes on the other side of growth versus the discomfort in the stretch. I also have to remind myself, it’s ok to stretch but it’s really painful to snap and it usually requires professional assistance. If I’m feeling like things could snap, it’s time to ask for help. Luckily this week, I had so many people offer to help. Thank you! It takes a village to raise a child. I can think of so many wonderful parents who have parented my own kiddos along the way. I can also think of so many kiddos that I freaking love and that I love to support. These boys in our “village” melt my heart. I love them and I’m happy to co-parent with other families when they need help.

Irresponsible Expectations Lead to Disappointment

My mind is always on. I’m sure yours is always on too. One of the things that is sort of amazing is that we are thinking things even when we aren’t always conscious of those thoughts. For example, when motherhood and work collide, when it feels like I’m at tension and not showing up well in either department, it’s usually because I’ve let myself create irresponsible expectations of myself without realizing. For example, going into this week, I let myself passively expect that it would be a normal work week. Because of that passive expectation I allowed myself to expect, I’m disappointed in how I’m showing up. It’s not been a normal work week – how can I expect the results that would come from a normal work week? I wish I had looked at the week ahead of time and changed my expectations so that I wouldn’t feel frustrated later. Instead, I let those passive, yet irresponsible, expectations float around causing unwanted stress and tension. We get to decide what to think and expect of ourselves. I think it’s ok to lower expectations from time to time so we can be happier and present in the moment. Some weeks have more work focus, some weeks have more family focus. It’s ok.

“As soon as you give it all up, you can have it all.”

Ram Dass

This quote was in my devotional this morning – of course it was. This quote reminded me to release my expectations. It also reminded me to dig deeper to understand why I put those expectations on myself. When I dig deeper, I realize those irresponsible expectations are rooted in fear. “If I’m not a great mom, my kids won’t need me. If my kids don’t need me, I’m irrelevant.” “If I’m not delivering on my goals at work, I won’t be able to serve as many people. If I’m not serving people, I’ll eventually be irrelevant.” If you’ve studied the Enneagram, and if you also are by chance an Enneagram 3 like me, you’ll know that one of our biggest internal fears is that we will be irrelevant or worthless. As soon as I give it all up, I can have it all. I have to give up those thoughts, fears and expectations. It’s not so easy though, you don’t just snap your fingers and release fear. You must be curious enough to understand it. When I do that, I have a much better chance to release the power and grip fear has on me. As a result, I have a much better chance to show up happy and healthy as the mom and the professional I want to be. It may not be balanced per se, but I can still be content and honor two of the values I hold dear, my family and meaningful work.

I see you. I love you. I’m cheering you on!


Photo Credit: Tasha Herrgott, Red Bird Hills Photography


Published by encourageherelena

My name is Elena and I'm the Chief Encourager at Encourage Her Elena. Encouraging Women in business, at home and in community is my passion. I'm an author, speaker, and coach. After almost twenty years in Financial Services (the ultimate male dominated industry), I realized that women need to hear another voice. They need to hear their own voice and step into exactly who they were made to be.

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