Finding fulfillment both at home and at work requires planning, grace and some perspective changes | By Bethany Mavis
“I really like my job. Is that bad?”
My husband and I were carpooling home from work a few months after I had gone back to working full-time post-baby #2. I was almost ashamed that I wasn’t feeling guilty about working again.
I’m not going to lie–our days are long. We both commute almost an hour each way, are working around specific daycare hours, spend more money per month on childcare than our mortgage payment, and then try to soak up every moment we do get with our girls on the weekdays in the couple of hours before they go to bed. We try to eat healthy, exercise regularly and maintain friendships. That all adds up to a messy house, piles of laundry every weekend and frequent illnesses.
It’s also isolating at times—few women I know in North County have a work life that looks like mine. With our couple friends, I can sometimes relate more to the husband’s day-to-day life (working in a corporate environment, office drama) than the wife’s (homeschooling, maintaining the home).
Despite all of that, it still feels worth it to me. Working is my act of “creative service,” and I feel called to where I am. I’m good at what I do, I enjoy my coworkers, I rarely dread going to work, and I’m building my career. And over the whopping three years I’ve gotten to attempt the working mom gig, I’ve learned some valuable lessons along the way.
- Plan everything. I don’t know when it started happening–I think it was somewhere around the third trimester of the second pregnancy, but things just started falling out of my brain. I now have lists everywhere. I have to-do lists at work, to-do lists at home and grocery lists, and I even have a list of all the things I have to bring with me every single morning (maybe a little extreme, but I haven’t forgotten my breast pump once!). I also do all of my grocery shopping for the week on Sunday to get both lunches to bring with me to work as well as all the dinners for the week. And I’m realistic–we can really only cook 1–2 meals per week after work with two young kids. We eat leftovers for a meal or two, and then we do simple frozen/easy-to-prepare meals for one night (Trader Joe’s is a life-saver). It may take a lot of extra work and commitment to spend a few hours every Sunday afternoon, but it frees up so much time during the week to avoid the grocery store, avoid take-out, and avoid stressing over what to have for dinner.
- Surround yourself with the right kind of people. At this stage of life, I simply do not have the capacity to keep up with friends every week and constantly meet up for kid-free girl dates. And I can’t have friends who make me feel guilty about not doing that. My closest, best friends are all women with whom I can easily pick up where we left off, guilt-free. They also understand squeezing time in together (“I have an hour to hang out. You’re at Ralph’s grocery shopping with your baby and mom? OK, be there in 5.”).
- Make the most of your “free” time. Looking at my daily schedule, you wouldn’t think I have any “free” time, but during my daily commute, my car has turned into a quiet sanctuary from my chaotic life. In the morning, it’s a time to pray, listen to sermons and music, and organize my thoughts. In the afternoon, it’s a time to catch up on the phone with family or friends. Finding the pockets of cal–and making good use of them for quieting my heart and min–has helped me keep from feeling overwhelmed.
- Be OK with saying no. We have such a “yes”-driven culture that you’re essentially guilted into going to every kid birthday party, bridal shower, and girls’ night. Our family has had to draw the line at one thing per day on the weekend–there’s no dragging two kids around town for six hours, skipping naps and screwing up feeding schedules. We’ve done it, and we’re so distracted by fussy kids by the second or third event of the day, we may as well not have even gone.
- Say yes to God. While our lives feel very full, last summer, we felt like we were going to be called to serve the church in a way other than financially. About a week later, we were asked to be the host home for an Immersion intern. It was something we hadn’t ever considered, given our busyness, but we were open to the idea, prayed about it, and decided to say yes. And it’s been such an awesome decision–we’ve been blessed immensely by having her in our home. She cooks dinner for us once a week and helps with babysitting and cleaning around the house. At this point, we can’t imagine how we would have survived this first year of having two kids and two jobs without her.
- Become a better giver. Having two incomes gives both of us the opportunity to give financially. For my husband, “giving” ranks high in his spiritual gifts, and I’ve learned a lot from him when it comes to giving (tithing on gross rather than net income, tithing after every paycheck, and giving generously on top of our tithes). Having two incomes (and being responsible for giving from my own), though, has forced me to become better at the discipline of giving.
- Let some things go. For the first time in seven years, I was unable to hand-make Christmas neighbor gifts last Christmas. And I was really OK with it. Three years ago, I would have been upset to not have been able to make them myself, but during this season of life, I’m learning to have grace for myself. And that goes for everything that gives the illusion of me being supermom (perfect family photos, homemade birthday party decorations, cupcakes made from scratch).
A supportive, encouraging husband has (obviously) been key to my success, and while our lives and schedules are very full, we feel fulfilled and content.
About the Author
Bethany Mavis is wife to Steve, mom of two girls (Nera, 3, and Emery, almost 1), and the Managing Editor of Triathlete magazine. She grew up in Texas, studied journalism at Point Loma Nazarene University, and met her husband on a mission trip to South Africa. They enjoy traveling, running half-marathons and racing triathlons. She’s been at The Father’s House for eight years (Pastor Dan was Steve’s youth pastor), and she currently serves as an editor of the Daughters Blog and a (kid-friendly!) life group leader.