December 2012 CWM Interview

 

The Voices of Christian Working Moms

Newly Released Book
written by
Author Kimberly Chastain

Hello my dear sisters in Christ. Did you have a wonderful Christmas? Often, Christmas can be stressful with families. Do know that no matter how your Christmas went that Christ is always there for us. He promises never to leave us nor forsake us. He also is a great Healer of past hurts, present hurts, and even those that may occur in the future.

I have “known” Cheryl virtually for many years through CWM. She has always been very open about her struggle as a CWM. Today she was gracious enough to share her struggles with being a CWM honestly and God’s great provision through the process. We can all be blessed and learn a lot from Cheryl.

Cheryl is a 49 year old CWM who lives in the United States. She is an Associate Professor of Nursing. Cheryl has 4 children: a 17 year old daughter, 13 year old son, 9 year old son, and 4 year old daughter. Listen as Cheryl shares her story as a CWM.

I have had almost 18 years now of being a Christian working mom. There are three areas of my life that working has impacted. The hardest part, by far, has been the internal conflict and tearing of my heart and soul when separating from my children. I miss them and I miss being there when they get home, or miss going on the school field trip, and feel guilty when they really wanted me to come, too! My 4 children are each spaced between 4 and 5 years. So, while I did find some relief after each one started school, I have always had a younger “baby” who was still devastated to have me go to work. Even though my husband and I tag team (he is with them when I’m at work and vice versa), that didn’t really comfort the little ones. There were (and sometimes still are) many days I’d cry on the way to work, because my little one was so upset.

I prayed for many years for God to change my situation – to let me be a SAHM. However, I provided half the income and we never could figure out a way for me to do this. I would get angry with myself and/or my husband and blame it on our culture or my upbringing. You name it and I had someone to blame for why I “had” to work. Granted, in hind sight I might do a lot of things differently in setting up my life as a mother. But, we don’t really get to act on our hind sight, except to share this wisdom with others (especially our children).

Work pressure and feeling inadequate, or unworthy is my second struggle. My work is very demanding and the schedule often unpredictable, although many people think academia is a plush position. The problem is it has no boundaries. It is acceptable (even expected) that you live for academia – that you put this above all else – including your family. This is deeply rooted in the history of academia. However, there is so much work to do in just teaching, preparing courses, advising and meeting with students, working on committees, curriculum development, clinical teaching, (just to name a few), that I don’t have time to do much scholarly work. None of my colleagues have children at home, and many will spend 60 plus hours a week on their professional lives. Therefore, I feel I haven’t totally met the expectations of the college or my colleagues. I feel inferior in many ways. However, I must choose to let this go. I am technically 80% FT, but work about 40 hours a week (sometimes more). If I did scholarly work – add another 6-8 hours.

Thirdly, working and tag teaming with my husband has resulted in a strain on my marriage. However, with God’s help, we are making it through the stress. We don’t fight and we enjoy each other, but we aren’t as attentive to our emotional needs as we should be. We have 4 days a month off together, BUT we do have a lot more time together in the summer and at Christmas. This has been a true gift from God. The problem is we’ve set up our lives in a little cocoon. We have no extended family near, so whatever needs to happen – we need to do it. While it has been hard, I honestly don’t think I would change this.

So, in a sense I don’t feel I’ve performed at my mothering, professional, or wifely role as well as I’d like. Although, I know that I’ve given it my best.

Over the years I have even come to see why God didn’t provide a way for me to stop working. While I enjoy my summers and time off with my children, and I do feel “most right” when I’m at home and focusing on the family – I also see so many ways in which God has used my work. The amazing thing is this: my work continues to ramp up (like most of society), but God has given me a calm. Yes, it is stressful and yes, I’d jump at the opportunity to do other things not related to my paid profession, BUT I’m OKAY. There are still days I want to pull my hair out. My very strong willed four year old is going through a particularly hard time right now with the separation anxiety rearing up strongly again. But, He has not forsaken me. I am NOT crazy. I CAN think. He has kept me sane!

I’m not convinced that God wanted me to be a working mom. I know a lot of working moms feel it’s their calling to work. I did feel that about my work until I had my first child. I now feel my calling is to be at home. BUT that doesn’t mean that God can’t make something good out of a bad plan on my part. It may not have been His plan for me, but He is bigger than my flops.

I see so many ways in which He has indeed turned my work into a positive. I have met many people in this work that either positively affected me – or I have had the chance to do something for them. In the last year, I have had 3 students with major life crises. I was able to reach out to them, physically help them, and share some of my faith. They told me how much this meant to them and even though they have graduated they continue to contact me. I enjoy my students. I give them my best. I get a sense of satisfaction from that.

I have a colleague with a recent family tragedy. I reached out to her – took her a meal, sent regular emails, went to the service. After the memorial, she whispered to me “thank you, I can feel God’s love from you”. This is a child of God. He used me!!

Providing for my family has been a gift. We’ve had many medical and dental bills over the years. I don’t see how we could’ve paid them if I weren’t working.

God has used my work to bring the right people into my family. We’re at our new church because of a contact that I initiated 20 years ago at my hair salon. I chose this salon because I can walk there from my office. If it hadn’t been for that contact at the hair salon, we wouldn’t have (20 years later) quit our old church and joined a brand new, on fire for God church. My oldest got baptized this summer, my 9 year old and I got baptized in October together and my 13 year old is getting baptized in January! This is because of a contact I would not have had, had I not been had my work. This is GOD! God is grabbing my family!

Working has also given me a perspective on mothering that I wouldn’t have if I had stayed home. I cherish my time at home. I’m excited to see my family. I look forward to summers and Christmas! When my little ones would (will) say to me “Mommy, I don’t want you to go to work tomorrow”. I can say, “I’ll miss you too, but I always come home and that’s the best part of my day”. We can both (all) look forward to reuniting. Maybe they appreciate me more, as well???

My work has given me stories to tell about patients we’ve helped or co-workers or students (both good and bad examples). It’s also shown them how to persevere, even when you’d rather be doing something else – even when it’s tough. (I use this a lot when they are struggling with school and homework) I had a very toxic administrator a few years ago. She was toxic to everyone – not just me. My children heard me talk about it and talk about how I was praying for her and for the situation. After 3 years, she was let go. It was the culmination of years of prayer. I shared this with my kids and made sure to remind them I had been praying and this was God’s response to me (and perhaps others).

It’s only been in the last 5 or so years that I’ve had a peace about working. I fear that prior to that I instilled work values that weren’t healthy in my children – complaining for example. I’m trying to do better now and hope that they will learn from all my mistakes (although I know we all have to make our own mistakes as well). I do tell them to plan their careers so that they will have flexibility when they become parents, in the event that they may want to stay home. I also tell them to talk to their future spouse (before marriage) about the option of staying home. They may have no idea they’ll want to stay home – most people (at least for me) don’t know how they’ll be changed by becoming mothers. I tell them to save one income and live on the spouse’s income. If you can do it before children, you can probably do it after children (or least only work part time).

My oldest leaves for college next fall . I’m going to miss her so much! It hurts to even think about it. I do have some regrets that I was so busy with work, but she has turned out very well – responsible, caring, creative, resourceful, loyal, loving, generous, and loves God! So, that tells me God can work in any situation. He wants our children to love Him and to be well adjusted. Despite my work demands, He has given me the strength, wisdom and resources to do right by this child of mine. He has intervened (probably more than I will ever know), to protect her from my mistakes and provide what I couldn’t.

My biggest hope is that all my children love God and will be eternally with Him and happy and safe. So far, that is happening. I keep praying for everyone of them, every day. That He shows Himself to them – that He sends the HS to convict them, to love them and to bring them to Jesus. So far, that has happened. Although I won’t give up praying every day, because Satan and his evil spirits would love to have my children!

Favorite Bible Verse:

I have so many – depending on what’s going on. In the last year, this passage has helped me a lot. I know God comes “right away” as it is written in some translations. So, even when I don’t see God at work, I trust He is helping “right away” and I just need to be patient.

Isaiah 30: 15-18
The holy Lord God of Israel had told all of you, “I will keep you safe if you turn back to me and calm down. I will make you strong if you quietly trust me.” Then you stubbornly said, “no! We will safely escape on speedy horses.” But those who chase you will be even faster. As few as five of them, or even one, will be enough to chase a thousand of you. …The Lord God is waiting to show how kind he is and to have pity on you. The Lord always does right; he blesses those who trust him.”

In the last few years, I have seen God work on some major life crises (both work and family). I’m learning to trust Him more as I have seen Him work. These things He has done are things that were not possible in the natural world. In fact, each time He did something, it came just as I thought I couldn’t take it anymore. I was desperate and had been for a while. Nothing I had done seemed to bring any relief. So, each time when the event(s) turned for the better, I was overwhelmed because I “saw” God – I “felt” God. It was powerful – in a physical and spiritual way. I felt my body tingle, my legs shook, etc…. There are 3 major events I am recalling right now. There are other smaller events that were just as clear – but not related to a change of course in my life. But still, God is showing me he comes to help and he does require us to trust Him. This is what I’m still learning.

Words of Encouragement for other Christian Working Moms:

Keep trusting. Be patient. If you have young children, it does get better as they get older! If you keep having younger children (like I have done), then keep waiting - it will eventually get better – even if it takes 20 years ! Keep talking to your kids. Use your mistakes or wisdom to help them. Over time, you’ll look back and see how God has worked and how amazing it is that you are still OK! You may not see it right now, especially if you are new to working and struggling internally – if working doesn’t really fit your calling to stay at home. God will keep you sane – He promises He’ll never leave us. We all have to keep holding on to that when times are hard.

Cheryl, I really appreciate your words of wisdom and for taking time to share them with us. My oldest “baby” just finished her first semester of college. It has been difficult, but also neat to see her grow up and be independent. One of the things I appreciate about what you said is how God is sovereign in all that happens in our lives. Also, I would like to share with everyone a thought that came to be recently about being a parent. If my husband and I were the “perfect parents” (don’t know any do you?) then my children wouldn’t need God. God will continue to grow my children in His image. That is a great comfort and relief.

Be thinking about what spiritual resolutions you will make in 2013 for your own personal walk with Christ and for your family as well.

Till next time,

Kimberly M. Chastain

Kimberly M. Chastain, MS, LMFT is the Christian Working Mom Coach and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She is the author of The Voices of Christian Working Moms, 2 ebooks and an online Bible study. To find out how to receive coaching tips by email daily, go to http://www.kimberlychastain.com/cwmtips.htm. To find out more about her books go to www.christianworkingmom.com. For a free, initial coaching session send an email to free@kimberlychastain.com.