There was a bit of a movement underway a few years ago: Christian women were signing pledges saying that they wouldn't let their tinies see them on the computer. I think their intentions were mostly good—they knew they were distracted, by social media in particular, and so they wanted to give their best attention to their children. That idea continues to hang on, particularly in my line of work.
I understand it. Of course, eight hours of Facebook to the exclusion of fully being present with our families is damaging. And I am wise with my time on social media, not only for my family's sake, but for my own creativity, health, sanity, and proper sense of perspective. When my husband gets home and asks me about my day, I don't want my first answer to be, "Well, you wouldn't believe what this one guy said on Twitter!" or "Look at how many likes I got on this Instagram picture of the kid I neglected all day!" Not exactly healthy.
But here's the thing: I work from our home on a—wait for it—computer. My husband works out of our home full time in a demanding job with irregular hours occasionally. I am the primary caregiver for our tinies. We have a (very beloved) babysitter for our littlest girl two mornings a week while the older two are at school so that I can make phone calls, do interviews, and work uninterrupted for a bit of time, but I am usually at home, trying to get in a full-time job at the edges of our life. Through trial and error, we've learned that our family works best in this way, with one parent more fully engaged during the day. Being a work-from-home mother can feel like a juggling act, but I wouldn't have it any other way.
I know that I am privileged to be a work-at-home mother. I don't take it for granted, even though there are occasional afternoons when I pick up the tinies from school and then turn on Wild Kratts, hand them a plate of apple quarters with goldfish crackers, and sit down to answer e-mails for an hour before supper. There are mornings when the baby and I take the tinies to school and then come home to a wide-open toy box for her, and an open laptop for me to write an article to deadline. When I am interrupted, there are times when I put my work aside , but then there are times when I hand her a book and say, "Mum is writing, we'll go to the park in an hour. Find something to do."Early into our family arrangement, I had to take a long hard look at the narrative that it was a shameful thing for my tinies to see me on the computer. And then, thoughtfully, prayerfully, I decided to get rid of any more needless mom-guilt.
I don't feel guilty when my tinies see me cooking supper. That's part of our life—and in fact, it creates a great opportunity to be together, to prepare them for life, to teach, to have fun. I don't feel guilty when my tinies see me cleaning the house. Keeping our home clean and tidy is part of my life—and it is part of theirs, too, unless I want to have lazy and entitled teenagers someday. Can I get an amen? I don't feel guilty taking them along when we get groceries or pay bills or drop off library books or help others or any other of the chores and tasks and work that go into running this little family.
Maybe my prairie kid work ethic is showing. My grandpa raised our clan to know that work is honorable. Now I've rounded that out with the belief that work is also a gift from God, part of our heritage as co-creators with God, particularly when our work—paid or unpaid—is personally fulfilling, an act of creativity or beauty or usefulness. What a gift to be able to work!
So, is it a shameful thing for a mother to work on the computer while her children are present? Nope. Not only is it not damaging to my tinies to see me—gasp!—working on the computer while they're here, I believe it's downright good for them.
Yes, it is good for them to discover right now that they are not the center of the universe. To let them discover ways to entertain themselves—I'm not their cruise director. To let them see their dad doing chores on a Saturday and make sure they grab a broom and sweep up drywall dust alongside of him. To let them grab a rag and a bottle of vinegar to pitch in with Thursday cleaning. To let them learn to fold socks. To let the tinies sweep the floors. This home doesn't run by magic or pixie dust. Welcome to being part of a functioning family, for heaven's sake.
In addition to that, we have decided it is good for the tinies to see me loving my job, loving my work, being good at something, and actually doing it. To let them see me being faithful to my calling, let them see their dad empowering me to do it with his enthusiastic blessing, let them see it as part of our family's gift to the world.
I want them to see that this is what we do in this family: We support each other in our work and in our callings and even in the things we just plain love to do. Mothers are people too.
Let the tinies learn what it looks like to be a person, made in the image of God, working—no matter if our work happens on computers or at the laundry or on the job site or the classroom—as unto the Lord. Let them see us working: Work is an honorable thing.
Sarah Bessey is the author of Jesus Feminist, an award-winning blogger at SarahBessey.com, a contributor for SheLoves Magazine, and a passionate advocate for global women's justice issues. She lives in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada with her husband and their three tinies. Follow her on Facebook, and connect with her on Twitter @sarahbessey.
This article originally appeared on SarahBessey.com. © 2014, Sarah Bessey. Reprinted by permission of Sarah Bessey.