It’s a pleasure to introduce you to Paula who’s sharing her unique journey through motherhood as part of our month-long guest post series, Special Mamas. Paula and I grew up together. We were in Girl Scouts, piano lessons, band, choir and musicals together. We enjoyed prom together. Our last names started with the same letter, so even our lockers were together. I guess you could say we did life together for many years! Paula is now a mom of two, and works full-time as a Minister with Children, Youth and Families. Today, she’s sharing her experience as a woman who’s chosen to maintain full-time employment in the midst of motherhood. Her decision has, at times, been met with shock and disapproval, but she’s also experienced deep fulfillment in her role as Reverend Paula. Please extend a warm welcome to Paula. I think you’ll find her post interesting, enjoyable and easy to read!
I have worked a professional full-time job for most of the eleven years I have been a mother.
Shortly after graduating from college, I enrolled in graduate school. I studied at Drew Theological School to get my Master of Divinity with the goal of becoming an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church. In March of 2004, my first child was born and I was commissioned into ministry just a few months later. While I took a standard maternity leave, I never considered staying home with my child would be my only job. My decision to return to work was met with shock and disapproval by more people than I anticipated. I was asked questions like “don’t you want to be with your child?” or “how can you leave such a young baby in a strange daycare?” or “why not work part-time?” or worst of all “if you didn’t want to be a mom, why did you have children?”
Sometimes the things other moms didn’t say were even worse. My first experience in ECFE was with a group of moms and their 3-6 month olds. I had returned to work when I started attending the class. I picked up my son from daycare and drove to our afternoon ECFE class wearing my typical business attire. The other moms were dressed in neatly coordinated and very washable outfits. During circle time, we were asked to share about our daily routines. When I said I worked full-time, there was an audible gasp in the room. Somehow there was shame in my choice…that I couldn’t or wouldn’t be an acceptable mother to this child.
As a privileged, white, middle-class woman, I had a choice. Perhaps that is why other women (and some men) were so hard on me about going back to work. I am aware that many women and families have no choice. However, I can’t help but wonder if a woman who supports her family on a single income might experience similar shame in her situation. I can’t help but wonder what kind of harm that does to a woman and her sense of motherhood. I was devastated to know that other moms thought I was somehow hurting my children by working full-time. With love and support from family and friends, my choice to remain in church ministry has been rewarding and fulfilling to both me and my children.
I now have two amazing children. Elliot is 11 and Sydney is 9. I love my children to the moon and back and like any mom, I will do everything in my power to protect and nurture them. My job can be stressful and frustrating, but the journey has been rich. I have served four different faith communities and each community has embraced my family. I am blessed to have a vocation with extremely flexible hours that allow me to schedule around doctors appointments, school conferences and a host of extracurricular activities. Yes, I will confess that sometimes my work ends up being first. When I catch myself in that place, I apologize to my children and I pray that they can both forgive and understand.
I believe that children need a variety of trusted adults in their lives to thrive into adulthood. Serving in a church blesses me with a network of men and women who love my children unconditionally. When I am leading worship, I look out and see my children sitting with their adult friends. When I am teaching at youth group, I look around and see my children sitting side by side with teenagers who not only tolerate their presence, but also engage them in conversation. When I have to stay at church for an evening meeting, my church family reaches out to help care for my children so they can get their homework done and into bed at a reasonable time. My children know people of all ages at their church and that makes my heart swell with pride. Their lives are richer and more diverse because of my choice to work.
My choice to work full-time is just that…a choice. My choice is not better or worse than a parent who chooses to stay at home with their children. Don’t judge me because I choose differently than you. Instead, let’s celebrate that it takes a village to raise our children, and that we need parents at home and parents in the work force.
This post is part of a month-long guest post series titled Special Mamas. The series runs all May and is in honor of moms who have unique journeys to and through motherhood. To read all 13 posts in the Special Mamas series, CLICK HERE and you’ll be directed to the introductory post. At the bottom of the post, you’ll find all guest posts listed and linked for easy reading!