the support network: life as a working mom

Even more profound than the support power of Spanx to make a jiggly booty smooth is the unbelieveable support network that God can provide for working moms.  I tip my proverbial hat  to the following groups of people who make life not only manageable but enjoyable.

1. The Husband: Dave has schlepped our baby around to meetings I’ve attended  just so I could continue to nurse, has watched Reuben solo for weeks while I’m away for work, taking M.A. classes at Wheaton, is savvy to the story-times, play-dates and free times for the zoo,  children’s museum and local attractions to keep him entertained. He is a superior and creative cook who had hot meals ready for me when I’d get home from long trips. He has willingly sacrificed his time, energy and ambitions to support and enable me to pursue what God has called me to in life.  He encourages me and prays for me when I get stressed out and overwhelmed.

Dave & Reuben on a recent expedition to the frozen shores of Lake Erie

Life as a working mom is entirely doable with amazing husbands who don’t simply tolerate their wife’s career, but are willing to make sacrifices to serve them.  Check out this great article by a dad who invites other dads to consider helping their wives by staying at home with the kiddos.

2. The MOPS group: Or other groups of supportive moms.  I’ll admit it- I was hesitant to go to MOPS when I lived in Grand Rapids.  I was worried that I’d feel ostracized because I worked, would be bored by endless conversations about baby stuff & wouldn’t be able to connect with other women. At the first meeting Lorilee, a working mom who is a journalist was telling us about attending the Def Leppard concert the night before to cover it for the local news paper. She had me at Def Leppard & I attended ever since then. These were women who could laugh and cry about kids, marriage, jobs and a slew of other things.  They were my support network as they prayed for me, talked me through the stress of moving and sometimes just let me cry. Other moms who know what it’s like to work and take care of kids seem more than willing to jump in to help out because they know what it’s like.  I miss my MOPS friends terribly now that I’m in Cleveland!

Though we often think of church as the building where we go for a couple hours on Sunday, the MOPS group I was part of was the church to me the other six days of the week. And they helped me to take snarky comments in stride from other people I’d hear on Sunday mornings “that must be SO HARD for you to be gone all the time!” Yes. Yes it is. Thanks for pointing that out. “What does Dave do while you’re away?” Umm, parent his child as a great father. This was a frequent comment when Dave began working part-time. “I could never do that.” Is that supposed to be a compliment or an insult? Even though these responses would be frustrating to say the least, I tried to have thoughtful responses to help people see that God can call families into all different situations that both honor him and care for the child.

3. Family. While it is a huge support to have a eager grandparent take care of the kiddos while you work, this isn’t always an option.  While we lived in Grand Rapids, both my parents were able to jump in on days when I had a long trip, to watch Reuben so we could go out for a date or even just be willing to have us over for dinner when both of us were too tired to cook.  I’m hugely grateful for my parents and sister for sacrificing their time to care for our family over the past four years.

hanging with the cousins is also pretty spectacular

In moving, I felt like one of the things God wanted to do in our lives was to expand our definition of family.  When you follow Jesus, you belong to a community who is committed to sacrificially loving and serving one another.  Living in Cleveland has opened our eyes to the love God demonstrates to us through his larger family- InterVarsity students and staff, friends and parents at Reuben’s preschool have all cared for us and for him in innumerable ways. It’s also been a good and humbling experience of asking for help- with family it can often feel easy to ask for help, with friends you’re often not sure of the boundaries.  Thankfully the offers to help have not been polite (but empty) attempts to make us feel more welcome.

4. Women you’ve never met (aka, good books).  I have always been a huge reader, so naturally when I got pregnant I scoured all the resources I could to help me learn about being pregnant and what life as a working mom would be like.  Two of my pregnancy favorites were “Sippy Cups are Not For Chardonnay and Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year.

I was a little embarrassed of how loud I was laughing in the library when I checked this book out.

5. An amazing community of working mom colleagues. The working moms I know with InterVarsity are some of the most helpful, supportive, empathetic & encouraging crew.  Once when I was staying in the Chicago area for me to take a class, Dave and Reuben came to visit for the weekend & unfortunately Reuben got sick. The next night, an InterVarsity staff Christmas party was being hosted at the home we were staying.  Reuben ate one small slice of chicago-deep dish & promptly harfed it up all over the kitchen floor.  All of the other moms sprang to attention, grabbing paper towels, comforting Reuben (I was still at class), and asking Dave if they could help with anything. My friend Lisa who also works for InterVarsity has remarked on numerous occasions how refreshing it is to have colleagues who don’t look at her like she’s crazy when she tells them that she and her husband are both pursuing degrees, working and raising their two kids. Other friends have lent maternity clothes, given helpful suggestions about how to attend work conferences with young kids, or even just offered to stay with them during a meal.

I know I’m likely forgetting a lot of people here.  Other working moms- what have been some of your helpful support systems?  What do you wish you had more help with?

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5 thoughts on “the support network: life as a working mom

  1. Thanks for your post Jess! With working and being in school, I sometimes second guess if I’m being a good wife and mother. I loved your point about God calling families in all different ways that honor him. Miss you!
    Rachel

  2. Thanks for sharing this! I’m new to your blog (via Grace Biskie) and I’m very happy for you that you have found such a supportive system. It is a true blessing and gift! I wonder, however, how working moms without this type of support make it. Any suggestions on finding and asking for this support since you’ve moved to OH?

    • Thanks for reading sharon. Finding a church has been really helpful with people to pray with, ask if they can occasionally watch our son & develop friendships has made a huge difference. Typically there are also networks of college students that are looking for babysitting jobs. I know of another working mom who has been able to utilize these networks and it’s been a huge help to her. Since my husband works on a campus here in Cleveland, we’ve had some eager students that enjoy spending time off campus, giving us a break & watching our son.

  3. i love the way you write- you had me laughing at the spanx comment- hilarious Jess! I am thrilled to hear that Cleveland is showing you love and support, and pray that you will continue to tap into that more and more in the coming months. Love you and miss you.

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