This blog is supposed to be about motherhood. That's what the title says, most certainly. But, in my case, and I suspect this is true for many mothers, motherhood is set in a living and contantly changing context. Motherhood does not exist in a vacuum, but is one of the identities I juggle with many others.
I think the greatest challenge for me is being a professional, working Monday through Friday, nine-to-five, outside our home. Moms who work at home, and moms whose work is home, have similar concerns, but I don't know their experiences firsthand. I'll just talk about what I know.
I enjoy working and always have. The idea of being productive on a regular basis, giving my mind's best and being creative in different ways everyday has always been exhilarating to me. I enjoy the competition, the chance to shine, the evolution of challenging projects, the give and take of working with talented people on projects and programs that can and do make a difference in other persons' lives. I really enjoy working.
When I became an adoptive mom, I dove into that with the same enthusiasm. I wanted to write a book about the process, tell others, counsel folks who were on the fence about adoption, spread the good news about creating a family through adoption to single African American women, especially. Everything revolved around the joys of single adoptive motherhood. The beginning was an exciting time! I would do it all again, too.
But, as my child grew, I recognized that my job and joy as her mother was getting much more complicated. Am I living in the right community for a growing and active girl? How will I send her to school? Where will I send her to school? How do I surround her with the right boys and girls so she can make good friends? Dance? Soccer? T-ball? Computers? What about discipline? Motherhood was becoming more of a full-time job. Once she started to walk, I really had to begin planning ahead. It is not like I hadn't been doing that, but the experiences I wanted her to have took more of my energy and time than my job seemed to permit.
The conflict for me was between my own sense of professionalism, my desires for professional growth and development, and my desire to be a good, focused, smart, and planful mother who mothers with love and patience. How do I do it all? How do I do it all with one paycheck? How do I do it all without depending on babysitters all the time? I spent many sleepless nights worrying, talking with friends and relatives, praying, and hoping for the best. Mostly, though, I spent nights and days struggling to change my own expectations, my own sense of what was necessary and what wasn't. I labored (and am still laboring) to judge myself less harshly.
Being a mom and a professional requires grace. From a theological perspective, grace is freely given, unmerited favor and love from God.It is not something we deserve or earn, but something we are simply given. It is "the influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them," according to dictionary.com. The sort of mother I want to be requires more strength and more patience (with my daughter and myself) and more energy than I can muster in any single day. I want to give my best at work because that can bring me joy and recognition (maybe even a bigger salary!), and I want to be my best with my girl because that brings me joy and peace. I also want to be my best for me. Because I believe grace happens, I believe it is possible to have these things: a good job, a great family life, and the comforting knowledge that I am doing my best.
None of this is easy. It takes prayer and quiet listening. I am grateful that I am living during a time when even single women can enjoy motherhood. I couldn't do it unless I worked everyday. In my life, then, motherhood and professionalism go together like a hand and glove. What grace!