browsing-in-pink-453218-mI am one of many mothers who work outside the home. There are (at least) three ways for moms to work outside the home: because the family needs the income, because mom loves her work, or (increasingly) both. For me, it is mostly because I love my work. When my children were young, I found ways to organize my time so that I could spend lots of time with them but also pursue my job. It was a matter of being true to a vocation. As a spiritual director, writer and retreat leader, I find that leaving this part of me behind would not be good for me or my family. I could not imagine stopping the work I love and feel called to do.

To pursue work and still nurture family life, I have had to get serious about time. Each moment is more precious than I previously believed. How should I spend each hour, each minute? With my children? At work? Getting needed rest and recreation? Tending to the groceries, the house, the dog? One thing for sure, I have had no desire to waste time on things that I don’t really care about. When it comes to this important issue of work/mothering balance, I realize my decisions not only involved practical matters, but identity and deep stirrings of the heart. I had to discover by trial and error, what is so important to me that I can’t, and shouldn’t, put it aside?

We all know how much there is to do, and how fast the time goes by when our children are young. We make our choices carefully and they become a reflection of who we are. I have seen mothers spend long hours volunteering so that all our children’s programs are made available at school. I’ve seen others who work and don’t have time for this, but are amazing at their careers and loving at home. Others are home-school parents and this takes up a large amount of time and energy. It is most interesting how many different ways there are to approach this puzzle of time and priorities. I have learned that women often have a vocation within the vocation of mothering. Family is not one-size-fits-all. Motherhood isn’t either. Isn’t that a relief?

What should our central value be throughout all this? Where there is love and kindness, there God is.  Growing as a family in practicing this difficult virtue is a central calling of family life.

As I write this, my ten year old is whispering so as not to disturb me while I write. It is ironic, but also somehow fits the puzzle as I have pieced it together. My guy may not have access to me 24-7, but he is learning to be considerate. And isn’t that cause for celebration?

So, sisters in Christ, rejoice always in the Lord and in the particular beauty of your family.

Copyright 2014 Julie Paavola