This is an interview with a friend of mine, who has three children and works both in and out of the home. It is the sixth post in the Mothering series.
What job do you do and how often do you work?
I am a solicitor and I work 3 days a week.
Why do you work?
I find it provides a helpful
balance. When I had my first daughter
I was going a bit stir crazy as a 'stay at home mum' which was leading me to
resent her. When she was 18 months old, I got a call out of the blue from my
old boss about a job in Brighton. I had been looking for a job in Brighton for 2 years before I fell
pregnant and so to suddenly have a good job fall into my lap felt like real
provision from God. Now that I have two more
children I still find that it works well for us as a family for me to be
working. This is partly a question of finances and partly a question of my
mum and my mum-in-law worked while they had children, so for both me and my
husband there was a precedent of mothers being busy both outside and inside the
I have some great friends and
colleagues at work. I am the only Christian that many of them have in their
lives and I am open about my faith. I feel that God has a role for me in
demonstrating His love to them in what can be a highly pressured environment.
Did you always want to return
to work after having kids?
I had anticipated taking a
long-ish career break after having my first daughter.
I knew I could not/would not go back to commuting to London for my job as the demands did not fit with having a
family (it didn’t really fit all that well with having a husband). I always
expected that I would go back to work at some point, it was just a matter of
the right opportunity arising at the right time.
How did going back to work
make you feel?
I felt a whole range of
emotions on going back to work. Any change that momentous is going to stir
things up. I felt anxious about my daughter at nursery and guilt on the
mornings she didn’t want me to leave her there. I felt relief to once again use my
lawyer brain and happy to be able to go to the toilet on my own and make myself
a cup of tea when I wanted one. Each time I’ve gone back to work we’ve
reassessed whether it’s the right thing and agreed to revisit it after 3 months
when things have settled.
Who are your children with, when you're at work?
My older two both went to nursery and thrived on it. The juggling with two at school and one at home was just too much and so we used a childminder for about a year. When she moved on we employed a nanny.
When you're at work, do you
think about the kids? How do you feel about not being with them?
Of course I think about the
kids when I’m at work and they’re part of my conversations with my colleagues
too. I look up and check the weather when it’s time for the school run and I
remember where they are and what they’re doing throughout the day. I know that
they are safe and well looked after and so I feel comfortable about not being
with them. I don’t turn off the “primary carer” role just
because they aren’t physically in my care. I
trust and like my nanny, so I don’t worry or feel guilty about the children being with her.
Is it hard juggling work and
time with the kids?
Life is full on with three
kids whether you’re working or not. In some ways it’s easier to be working
because I can afford to employ a cleaner. I can pop to the shops in my
lunch break for the things we’ve run out of at home. Or go and buy school fancy dress or birthday presents or any of the other emergencies that life throws at you. In other ways
it’s hard not to be the one picking them up from school and enjoying music
groups etc with them.
My job is quite demanding and
being a mother does mean I have to say no to things at work and make it clear
that I have commitments outside work that I can’t break. I do feel at times
that I have to fight to keep work contained into my three days. It would easily
spill over if I let it.
How do other people react to you being a working mum?
I don’t know if people
judge me for working, but I do feel a residual guilt as a Christian mother who
has chosen to work. It’s easy to get the impression in church circles that
mothers don’t work, which is perhaps because the non-working mothers are more
is compounded by the fact that the more traditional model of family, is for
mothers not to work. I do find that some people at
church are still somewhat tied to the more traditional family model, which can
be hurtful at times though it’s not intended. (I keep Deborah, Lydia and the
Wife of Noble Character (Prov 31) in reserve for any awkward conversations).
For me, it has been a
challenge to be very clear on why I am working. I keep reassessing with my
husband, if it is the right thing for us as a family. I do still feel the
“mummy guilt” every now and then, because as a mother you absolutely want what
is best for your kids and can worry that you are not doing your best. I’m
confident for now, that me working is for the best but I’m open to that
How do your kids feel about
I think that if I asked them
they would say they’d rather I was with them all the time, but if they had what
they wished for I expect they might change their minds!
What's the best and hardest thing about you working?
The best thing is being able
to be myself; both lawyer and mother. I wouldn’t manage to be
myself if I did only one of the two roles. The hardest things are
leaving my littlest with the nanny in the morning and not being the one to pick my
big two up from school.
Do you think your kids miss
out or get the best out of you because you work?
I think they get the best out
of me because I work, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t miss out on other
Are there any worship songs which have blessed you in this season?
Lou Fellingham’s “Promised Land” because it talks of the magnificence of Jesus and His salvation but also underlines that we’re pressing on towards something more as we go through life. It helps to give me perspective. It also reminds me that I am His and whatever I do each day, it is all His and it is all for Him. There’s one line: “With the Spirit’s help I can journey on”, sometimes I’m simply clinging on to that in both work-life and home-life but that’s all He asks of me. The whole album is a real help and encouragement to me.
What has God taught you about Himself, while being a working mum?
God has taught me that He is faithful and reliable. I firmly believe that he has sent me this job and that he has had the childcare in hand. The childminder was perfect for her season and now our nanny is perfect for this season. He sent them both to us.
What has God taught you about yourself?
I find that being a working mum can leave me quite isolated. I drew a lot of support and friendship from other women in the church when I was on maternity leave but my working pattern means I can’t now attend the Mums’ Prayer meetings. There are times when I feel I’m out there on my own. The consequence for me of feeling out there on my own and facing the constant juggling is to fall into self-sufficiency. This is, of course total madness as there’s no way I can do it all on my own. I’m now meeting up with a friend more regularly who is brilliant at bringing things back to Jesus and at encouraging me in my faith.
How do you feel about being a mum? It's the most challenging, rewarding, frustrating, relentless, joyous thing I could ever imagine. It's a real privilege and responsibility but so full of laughter at the same time. I love it.