You haven't even made it to work, and already you know it's going to be one of those days. Sarah's pouting because you forgot to wash her neon purple shirt and today is Glow-in-the-Dark Day at school. Matthew's sitter is sick and you had to scramble to find a replacement. You finally get the kids where they need to be, breathe deeply and prepare to face your day. Turning the corner, you find yourself smack in the middle of a traffic jam. Why did I ever go back to work? you wonder. Life sure was a lot simpler when I was at home.
Sixty percent of all mothers today work at least part-time outside the home. And statistics show that the No. 1 emotion working mothers struggle with is guilt?guilt because you aren't home when the kids get home from school, guilt because your son doesn't like his sitter, guilt because you can't be a room mother.
"Working mothers are under tremendous strain," says author and speaker Mary Whelchel. "We have a lot of people depending on us. If we mess up, everybody feels it."
Whelchel knows about work-related guilt. A career mom since her daughter was 8, Mary is the founder of The Christian Working Woman, a ministry dedicated to helping Christian women apply God's Word to their lives in the workplace. We talked to Mary about getting rid of working-mom guilt.
Let's start with the basics. Why is guilt such a problem for working moms?
Guilt and parenting seem to go hand in hand. Every mother experiences it. We somehow believe if something's wrong with our children it must be our fault. And because a working mother isn't physically present with her kids 24 hours a day, she naturally blames herself even more when there's even the slightest problem.
There's also a guilt that's unique to Christians. I think it's because of the attitude in some Christian circles that working mothers can't possibly be as good at parenting as their stay-at-home counterparts, and that their children can't possibly become well-adjusted adults. There are some pretty strong opinions and a lot of blame being thrown around.
How can a mom know if God wants her in the workforce?
She needs to start on her knees. A lot of women tell God, "This is what I'm going to do. I want you to bless my agenda." That never works. You must go humbly to God and say, "Lord, I want your will, whatever that is. I'm giving you a blank sheet of paper and you can write my orders on it."
Working moms need to make sure their marching orders come from the Lord. Once you know you're where God wants you, you really can get rid of guilt. Take hold of those orders and start marching. Be proud of them.
But, if you have any uncertainty at all about working outside the home, if you've never gone to God in the first place, then back up and seek his will.